The Golden Age makes all to win at Happy Valley earlier in the season.
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Andrew Hawkins
Trainer Tony Cruz heads the Hong Kong defence in the Class 1 Hong Kong Macau Trophy at Sha Tin on Saturday (12 May) with three of the 12 runners. If the handler’s attire on Friday morning (11 May) was any indication, though, perhaps The Golden Age is the leading seed among the trio.
The Golden Age (126lb), third to Singapore Sling in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) in February and fifth to Ping Hai Star in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) at his last start in March, drops back to 1400m in Saturday’s feature. The 103-rated galloper won over 1650m and 1800m at Happy Valley earlier in the season and has finished no better than fifth when tested over the shorter trip in Hong Kong, although he was a two-time winner at 1400m as a two-year-old in France, including the G3 Prix La Rochette in 2016.
“He’s come out of the Derby very well,” said Cruz, sporting a white T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of The Golden Age. “Coming back to 1400m isn’t ideal but there aren’t many options for a horse like him with a rating over 100, there just wasn’t anything appropriate other than this race. The next possible race after this is the Group 3 over 1600m next month. We’ll go there, but I think he needed a race before and this fit in well.
“He did win over seven furlongs in France and he did come from behind in those races. I don’t think he’s simply a front-runner who needs 1800m, I think he’s more versatile and races like this are where he can show it. Hopefully he’s able to be competitive over 1400m and it opens up more opportunities for him.”
The Golden Age has drawn the outside gate with first-time rider Tommy Berry engaged.
“I’ve obviously seen plenty of him but I went through and watched all of his replays last night,” Berry said. “It’s a big call but I think he’s one of the most consistent horses in Hong Kong, he just keeps stepping up and he’ll always run his race. His trials have been good and he looks to have freshened up well. Even if he doesn’t win here, I am confident he has another win in him before the end of the season.”
Drawn immediately to The Golden Age’s inside is stablemate Romantic Touch (132lb), with Douglas Whyte to ride. The seven-year-old won the first leg of the interport series, the Macau Hong Kong Trophy (1500m), at Taipa in March for the second consecutive year and is eligible for a HK$1 million bonus should he complete the double this year.
“This has been the target all season, to try and win both races and the bonus,” Cruz said. “He’s better with a bit of give in the ground so rain won’t hurt him. The bonus would be very nice and he is honest, he’s not without a chance.”
Cruz’s third runner is California Whip (121lb), with Neil Callan to ride from gate eight. The trainer admits he is still trying to figure out the five-year-old, even after the Giant’s Causeway gelding has had 21 starts for the handler.
“I think he’s just a sprinter now and 1400m is his maximum, it might even be his best trip even though he hasn’t won over that distance here,” said Cruz. “I’m not sure, though, he’s still a bit of a puzzle. He’ll be somewhere near the lead and hopefully he’ll stick on to be right in the money.”
The Macau raiding party was reduced to two on Friday morning when trainer James Moore’s pair Mister Kaopu and Victory Megastar were withdrawn. The 27-year-old, though, is still represented by Kelowna Star (118lb), who was 10th in this race last year.
“He’s travelled a lot better this year than he has in the past,” Moore said. “He’s done really well, he looks healthy and if the track did happen to come up soft, he would appreciate that.”
Moore’s father Gary was the last Macau handler to win the race, with Viva Pronto in 2010, while his uncle John has saddled up five winners, including the last three – Arpinati (2015), Dashing Fellow (2016) and Invincible Dragon (2017). The seven-time Hong Kong champion trainer is represented by Magic Legend (119lb) on Saturday.
Trainer John Size saddles up Perpetual Joyance (120lb) and Calculation (113lb), with the former only gaining a start on Friday morning, while Joyful Trinity (133lb), Racing Supernova (123lb), Super Fluke (122lb) and Marvel Tribe (119lb) complete the Hong Kong team.
For Macau, Kelowna Star is joined by the Peter Leyshan-trained Krystrump, (113lb) who finished second to Romantic Touch in the Macau Hong Kong Trophy at his last start in March.
The Hong Kong Macau Trophy is the eighth of 10 races at Sha Tin on Saturday and is scheduled to jump at 9.35am. The opener, the Class 4 Macau-Taipa Bridge Handicap (1000m), is set to begin the card at 6am.