Exultant beaten in Hong Kong Gold Cup
- Time Warp turns the tables on Exultant in the HK Gold Cup
In a major shock, Exultant has been beaten as the $1.20 favourite in Sunday’s HK Gold Cup.
The Tony Cruz-trained gelding Time Warp has gone back in time and found his best form to deliver a knockout blow to punters and stunned connections of the white-hot race favourite.
Sunday’s event was Time Warp’s second Group One victory and ironically, his first major trophy was this very race two years ago.
But statistics mattered not on Sunday as the 25-1 outsider ‘stole’ the race from his stablemate and even surprised his trainer.
“That was a big surprise! I was expecting Exultant to win the race,” trainer Cruz said.
Most of the experts agreed and all thought it a formality that Exultant would step up and take out his second successive Gold Cup which would have him set for a tilt at the Group One Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) in Dubai next month.
But race tactics didn’t work out the way Zac Purton (on Exultant) had hoped, with Time Warp allowed to cross and lead and was then left alone to dictate the race with a slow mid-race tempo.
Joao Moreira hadn’t ridden Time Warp in more than two years but looked right at home on the seven-year-old as he led the field into the straight and said “Thank you very much, now I can go !”
“With 200 metres to go I could see Exultant coming on my outside,” Moreira said.
“Zac was screaming and shouting, making sure his horse was attacking the line, and he was coming, but fortunately my bloke just didn’t give up.
“He’s proven to be a very good horse, he’s won some of the best races in town and he’s proved that he’s still got it !”
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 16, 2020
Time Warp is somewhat temperamental and resents being pressured which was reflected in his run to the line.
Moreira gave him four slaps with the whip and each time the burly chestnut swished his tail with resentment. (which is clearly evident in the replay)
Cruz reminded Moreira of this when discussing race tactics.
“Joao knows this horse and it’s very simple – he goes to the front and he likes to dictate the race and have everything his own way”.
“If he’s still in front going into the straight he’s very difficult to run down.
“I said to Joao ‘make sure you don’t touch his hind quarter’ because he will put the brakes on,” Cruz revealed.
For Exultant, Purton blamed the barrier draw and slow tempo for the loss.
“There was no pressure on the leader, they got away with murder in the first half-mile so it’s pretty simple,” he said.
“I knew early when they weren’t going that fast that it was going to be hard, that’s what happens in those races.
“He drew the wrong gate, I said pre-race it was not a good gate for him and that’s the way it panned out.”
Despite the loss, Cruz is still keen on a Dubai start with Exultant but will consult with connections before a final decision is made.
“I’ll have to discuss with the owner before we make a decision on Exultant,” Cruz said.