Matthew Poon eyes victory for Tony Cruz at the Valley before they team up in the Hong Kong Derby




Matthew Poon Ming-fai will take part in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) for the third time this Sunday and in the Tony Cruz-trained Ima Single Man, he’s confident he’s landed his best ride yet in the prestigious four-year-old contest.


While Poon’s first two rides in the Derby came aboard rank outsiders – Private Secretary at $71 in 2020 and Maximus at $98 last year – Ima Single Man has held his own in the first two legs of the Classic Series and enters the finale with the fifth highest rating in the race.


“He has a rating of 90 and is in the top five in the field so he should be competitive,” Poon said. “Every jockey in Hong Kong hopes they can ride in the Derby and get a good result in the Derby so I’m really excited.”


Like quite a few who will take their place in the Derby, Ima Single Man tackles 2,000m for the first time and Poon knows it is critical his mount settles if he is to run out the trip after a number of rivals sailed past him late during his seventh in last month’s Classic Cup (1,800m).


“He needs to be more relaxed during the race and he should be able to stay the trip,” Poon said.


Before bidding to land the ultimate success for Cruz – who also saddles up California Spangle and Champion Dragon in the Derby – Poon will look to help the legendary trainer add to his 40 winners so far this season at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.


Poon climbs aboard More Than Enough and Sunshine Warrior for Cruz at the midweek meeting and believes the latter can show his best in the Class Three Durham Handicap (1,650m), his second start down in grade after a prolonged stint in Class Two.


“Even in Class Two he has produced some good performances and down in Class Three if everything is well I think he can be very competitive,” Poon said.

“He has drawn a pretty good barrier in six and hopefully his form is still good. I’ve only ridden him once but that was in Class Two at Sha Tin – he has been quite consistent over the Happy Valley 1,650m in the past few seasons and I think he loves this track and I expect him to perform pretty well.”


Also among Poon’s five rides are Wood On Fire in the second section of the Class Three Chester Handicap (1,200m) and Melbourne Hall in the first section of the Class Four Hereford Handicap (1,200m).


“Wood On Fire has got barrier three, which is a big improvement from last start, so he can get a better position this time and hopefully everything goes right. I think he can finish quite strong,” Poon said.


“Melbourne Hall finds it difficult to win, he needs everything to go his way. Barrier 12 doesn’t help but hopefully the pace is strong and he can finish strong.”


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