Racing

Buddies now eyes the HK Mile

Trainer Cruz considering the option after his gelding's all-the-way win in the Class 1 Panasonic Cup Handicap

A tenacious all-the-way win from Buddies in Saturday's Class 1 Panasonic Cup Handicap over 1,400m at Sha Tin has trainer Tony Cruz considering next month's Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile step.

"Looks like I have to. We might as well give it a go, what's there to lose? Otherwise, there's no race for us," said Cruz, regarding the son of So You Think's possible participation in the HK$25 million (S$4.3 million) contest.

Buddies' victory was the tough on-pacer's seventh and his second at Class 1 level.

This time, he succeeded off a mark of 105, the third highest-rated in the contest, behind top-weight Fast Most Furious and Jolly Banner.

"We'll see how much his rating goes up and we might have to end up going to the Group races, because the programme in Hong Kong is pretty limited to where you can go. But we'll go wherever we can that's over an appropriate distance," said Cruz.

Jockey Matthew Chadwick's well-judged front-running ride had the gelding crossing the line in 1min 21.80sec, a length ahead of the fast-finishing Lucky Express and Super Wealthy.

"Every win is good, but my horse did well. He did what he had to do," said Chadwick.

The bay Australian-bred was previously trained by John Moore, who was compulsorily retired last season and won his first five races for the seven-time champion trainer.

"We all thought he had a great chance. It goes back to when John Moore trained him, he had apprentice Jerry Chau on the horse and he won with a very fast time (1min 20.88sec)," said Cruz.

"And, when the owners asked me would you like to train this horse, I said 'sure, I'd love to' because what I saw was pretty impressive."

Buddies' success gave Chadwick and Cruz a fourth win together this season. The jockey is keen to team up again at the Hong Kong International Races.

"The Hong Kong Mile will be a completely different ball game with some strong front-runners in there as well, so it'll be very interesting," said Chadwick.

"Time will tell to see what happens and what path he takes. But I haven't got a ride yet in the Mile, so if I was offered it, I wouldn't be turning it down."

Cruz has tasted success in the Hong Kong Mile with Lucky Owners (2003), Beauty Flash (2010) and Beauty Only (2016).

"Matthew definitely knows how to ride and whatever opportunity I can give him, I would love to have him on my horses," said Cruz about his former apprentice who partnered the handler's California Memory to back-to-back wins in the Longines Hong Kong Cup.

Cruz sealed a double when Hong Kong International Sale graduate Beauty Angel bagged his fourth consecutive win in the Class 3 Panasonic Massage Lounger Handicap over 1,800m.

That effort also sealed a double for Joao Moreira, who earlier scored on another International Sale graduate, Forte.

The Caspar Fownes-trained charge excelled in the Class 4 Panasonic IH Warm Jar Handicap over 1,000m with a gritty debut success.

The win was the 12th this season that championship leaders Fownes and Moreira have struck in tandem.

"We picked this race a while ago for him and he had a good preparation into it," said Fownes.

"He was a bit immature when I got him, but he learned through each trial and progressed nicely, and I was happy to get that winning result."

The four-year-old stepped away only fairly from Barrier 5, but managed to hold a position in midfield.

Once he hit the front, the gelding was challenged, then headed by United We Stand, before Moreira drove him to win by 11/4 lengths.

"It's always hard to win in Hong Kong first-up with a young horse, so it was a good effort and, hopefully, he can get stronger and improve through the season," said Fownes.

The Per Incanto gelding was the second highest sale-topper at the 2020 July Sale, with the hammer falling at HK$6 million for the New Zealand-bred.

"He was the one I liked the most and I'm glad we got him. Obviously, he was a little bit expensive," added the trainer. - HKJC

HORSE RACING