© Photo Healy Racing
By Leo Schlink
Tony Cruz is confident Beauty Joy can continue a prodigious rise after the emerging talent propelled Zac Purton to a confidence-boosting treble with HK$3.7 million G3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) victory at Sha Tin on Sunday (29 May).
Now the most successful trainer in the Lion Rock Trophy’s seven-year history, having won it previously with The Golden Age (2018) and Ka Ying Star (2020), Cruz believes Beauty Joy is capable of ascending even higher through the grades after notching his fourth win of the season.
“Good horses can relax and they can change gears and they can quicken. He's the type of horse who can do that. He won a Group 3 race today and I think he can be a Group 2 horse,” Cruz said.
“It (the race) started fast and then they started to pull it up on the turn and Beauty Joy started to throw his head up because they slowed it down. But Zac has got good hands, so he could still relax the horse and he could still finish strong. I was very happy with the ride and all credit to the jockey.”
Unbeaten in four Australian starts as Talladega, Beauty Joy could press for a season-closing win in the Class 1 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy Handicap (1600m) on 16 July at Sha Tin.
Posting his first win in the Lion Rock Trophy, four-time champion jockey Purton registered his first treble since 1 May. Since then, the Australian has battled fitness issues to slot only three winners from the ensuing seven meetings — until Sunday’s bounty.
Following earlier wins on Handsome Twelve and Phoenix Light, Purton expertly managed Beauty Joy’s tendency to over-race before surging clear of Cheerful Days (Alexis Badel) and My Sugar (Jerry Chau) in 1m 34.71s.
“His performance was good, he’s obviously a talented horse. His overall record (four wins from eight starts) in Hong Kong is very good and he’s still got a little bit left there. He’s a handy horse,” Purton said, while also addressing the horse’s racing manners.
“It’s come out of nowhere, he was a really nice horse to ride and then he wanted to start playing up in the gates a little bit and he begun a bit ordinary a couple of times and then he had a bit of time off, he came back and now he’s doing this stuff.
“He’s obviously a little bit tricky, he just doesn’t like it when they back the pace off at the moment. He’s done this three times in a row now, so we’ve got to correct and as he’s getting up in the ratings, it will get tougher.”
Purton trimmed an eight-win deficit to championship leading Joao Moreira to 121-115 after the Brazilian partnered Danny Shum’s Romantic Combo to victory in the Class 3 Piper’s Hill Handicap (1800m, dirt).
Antoine Hamelin was elated with Running Glory’s success — the gelding’s fifth in nine starts — in the Class 2 Hung Mui Kuk Handicap (2000m), a triumph which earned the Kermadec four-year-old a High Achievement Bonus of HK$1 million as John Size narrowed Frankie Lor’s lead in the trainers’ championship.
“When I got this ride, I was very happy because he’s a good horse — he almost always wins — so I was very thankful to Mr Size to give me this support. We had a good race, perfect midfield cover, and then he gave me the dash to finish,” the Frenchman said.
“I just did the ride — the horse is in very good form.”
Size trails Lor 78-76 after the 11-time champion trainer combined with Alexis Badel to clinch the Class 3 Eagle’s Nest Handicap (1200m) with the impressive Brilliant Way.
David Hall’s decision to alter Gracylove’s gear triggered a welcome change in fortune as the Shooting To Win gelding ended an eight-run losing streak under Luke Ferraris’ facile ride to land the Class 4 Sha Tin Pass Handicap (1400m).
“He just lost all of his form and his desire, so he had us a bit baffled,” Hall said. “He had the blinkers on before and it didn’t have much effect on him so when he became as frustrating as he has been, I decided to try the visor on him in a trial and it was the first time he’d shown a bit of positivity.
“I was hoping he was going to carry that form forward to the races and thankfully it worked.”
Benno Yung believes Handsome Twelve, emphatic winner of the Class 4 Tate’s Cairn Handicap (1650m, dirt), has the scope for plenty of improvement after posting his first win in Hong Kong at his eighth attempt.
“He had a wide barrier (12) and a big weight (133lb), so I think he is better than this class,” Yung said. “He did a good job.”
Vincent Ho narrowly denied Purton in the following event when he coaxed Ricky Yiu’s Robot Warrior to victory in the Class 4 To Fung Shan Handicap (2000m).
“He's a typical stayer and this is his best season so far. He's fully mature now, he really knows what he's doing now and he's in good health,” Yiu said before Purton completed a double aboard Dennis Yip’s Phoenix Light in the Class 4 Sha Tin Heights Handicap (1200m).
Yiu returned to the winners’ enclosure when Shining Gem shouldered 133lb under Derek Leung to snare the Class 3 Kau To Shan Handicap (1400m).
“He’s a nice horse,” Yiu said. “To carry a big weight and win like that was very good.”
Ho sealed a brace with Winning Dreamer’s win in the Class 2 Amah Rock Handicap (1200m) for Frankie Lor.
“Today, the horses were good and in the last race Winning Dreamer drew barrier 12 and I had the confidence that he would still perform really well and luckily the race panned out really good,” Ho said.
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (1 June).