Jockey Alberto Sanna produced one of the rides of the season aboard Gold Mount to guide Tony Cruz’s charge to victory in the Class 1 Happy Valley Vase Handicap (1800m) at the city track tonight (Wednesday, 28 March).
Making his Happy Valley debut, Gold Mount was settled at the rear by Sanna, as expected, in a race bursting with pressure in the early and middle stages. Initially, it was the Cruz-trained Romantic Touch and then Ricky Yiu’s Packing Dragon setting brisk fractions mid-race.
On the corner, Joao Moreira on 2.9 favourite Dinozzo pulled out to the centre of the track, with Brett Prebble aboard 4/1 second pick Eagle Way manouevering out to the middle early in the straight. Sanna, conversely, had made a decision to stick to the rail and ride for luck, with the Italian rider saying that he took inspiration from Gerald Mosse and Zac Purton; each had guided the Excellent Art gelding to a Class 2 win at Sha Tin apiece.
“I watched all of Gold Mount’s videos when I got the ride,” Sanna said.
“When he won at his first start in Hong Kong, at Sha Tin, Gerald won on him. Gerald is my idol as a jockey, so I wanted to ride him similar to the way he rode that day. He saved plenty of ground but he had him a fair bit closer. Even when Zac won on him in November, he also came up the rail – I think the horse just takes encouragement from coming between horses.
“On the corner, I didn’t mind being back last because I was following Eagle Way, and he was following Dinozzo, so I thought I was around the right horses. They were going wide, though, away from the rail, and so I decided that my race would come up the inside. Luckily, it was the right choice as it won me the race.”
At the line, Gold Mount (132lb) had a head to spare over a swooping Eagle Way (133lb), with Dinozzo (131lb) holding down third a length from the winner.
It was Sanna’s first Class 1 win, while the jockey also made it a double on the night having earlier ridden a similarly impressive race aboard the Francis Lui-trained Golden Kid in the Class 5 Briar Handicap (1650m).
“I’m working very hard here to stay here – I want to be a full-season rider,” the Italian rider said. “I’m not here just to eat peanuts, I’m here to win races. I’m very happy with tonight, but I look to the future now, taking it day by day. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Cruz believes that Sanna’s star is on the rise and says that the 32-year-old is set to make his mark in Hong Kong in seasons to come.
“I think Alberto is improving and I think he is going to be hot property very soon,” the trainer said. “I think everybody likes him because he is working very hard and he is giving it his all.”
Gold Mount is now set for a return to stakes company, with Cruz weighing up the Group 1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) on 29 April and the Group 3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) on 6 May as stepping stones ahead of the five-year-old’s main target, the Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) on 27 May.
“There’s no real mystery about where his targets lie, it’s all the long-distance races and the Champions & Chater is the goal,” Cruz said. “He will probably go to the QEII but he could run in the Queen Mother too, he is a good stayer.”
Trainer John Moore says Eagle Way is also set to go to the Queen Mother Memorial Cup, a race that he won 12 months ago. That day, both Gold Mount (third) and Dinozzo (fourth) were behind him.
“He’s clearly racing well and these 2400m races at the end of the season should be right up his alley,” Moore said.
“He didn’t get the result tonight but he’s run a great race – who would have thought a horse built like him would like Happy Valley!”
Cruz won both feature races at Happy Valley, taking the Class 2 Volunteers’ Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m) with California Whip. Moreira, who also scored a double on the card, was the pilot.
“He obviously hadn’t won this season, but he’s been racing well,” the Brazilian rider said. “He took a long time to wind up but he eventually got there and, although I was worried about horses coming from behind, in the end he was the best tonight. That was well-deserved.”
Nash Rawiller also scored a double with Hero Time and Sharp Sailor, while Keith Yeung (Charity Wings) and Jack Wong (Prince Harmony) had a win each.