Exultant takes out a second Centenary Vase
- Tony Cruz still has a Dubai trip on the books
The Tony Cruz-trained Exultant bounced back from his Hong Kong Vase defeat to win his second consecutive Centenary Vase on Monday.
Hong Kong’s champion stayer made it look easy in the end with a copybook ride from leading rider Zac Purton.
Coming off a five-week let-up, he was given the job of carrying 60.5kgs (133lbs) into the race but made short work of the weight in the run home as he quickly put two lengths on them and never looked threatened from there.
The win made it seven Group successes and his third at Group Three level.
Cruz was more than pleased with the efforts of both horse and jockey
He outclassed his field today,” the handler said. “I don’t think there was any outstanding opposition and I was expecting him to win.
“He’s turned into a very professional racehorse; he waits on the jockey to make the move. Zac knows this horse so well and he knows how to use his ability and that’s half the battle won really.”
Cruz now has plans to tackle the Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup in three weeks’ time (which Exultant won last year), and then a decision will be made on whether he travels to Dubai for a tilt at the Group One Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) at Meydan.
“Next race will be the Hong Kong Gold Cup and then we’ll decide whether we go to Dubai or not,” Cruz confirmed post-race. “I’m expecting to go because he’s not getting any younger and I think we’d better make a move and go to Dubai with him.
“I believe he can do something in Dubai, I believe he can prove himself and win that race. His form is good – it shows that he’s right up there with the best.”
“He’s back-to-back in the Centenary Vase – Exultant too good!”
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 27, 2020
Meanwhile, later in the day, the seemingly invincible Golden Sixty also made light work of things as he comfortably won the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m).
Coming off a solid two length victory in the Group Three Challenge Cup three weeks earlier, he was always going to be the one to beat on Monday afternoon.
The victory made it five from five this season and now trainer Francis Lui has the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on the menu for his Medaglia D’Oro gelding.
“It’s a kind of relief – I was a little nervous and the closer we got to the race, the more nervous I felt,” Lui admitted after securing his first victory in the storied contest, the first leg in Hong Kong’s three-race Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
“Golden Sixty has done what has been asked of him every time,” Lui continued. “Last race he went 1400 metres, this race was a mile and next time will be 1800 metres in the Hong Kong Classic Cup, so we will take it step by step. If he runs well in the Classic Cup we will go to the Derby.”
Jockey Vince Ho is the only rider to sit on the horse’s back and he was also happy with the effort.
“He was a bit keen today and he took some time to settle but he still showed a good turn-of-foot,” the rider said. “He lay in a little bit, which made things a little bit harder, but he still won very easily.
“It’s just a matter of time for him, to pick him up, and I just have to be patient on him and then he will give me everything he has.”
This was the first success in a major four-year-old event in 14 years for Lui after Hello Pretty took out the Hong Kong Derby Trial back in 2006.
Stablemate, More Than This finished a gallant second, giving Lui the quinella for the race.
How about this for a turn of foot?
— Hong Kong Racing (@HongKong_Racing) January 27, 2020
They will meet again in the Hong Kong Classic Cup and then both are planned to tackle the BMW Hong Kong Derby over 2000 metres.