Irish import Delightful Laos is shooting for back-to-back victories at Happy Valley on Wednesday night after becoming the fourth Tony Cruz-trained Private Purchase to win on his Hong Kong debut this season.
It is notoriously hard for previously raced horses to perform immediately in Hong Kong – under four per cent of them have won first-up since 2007 – but Cruz has bucked the trend this term, with four of his 14 Private Purchase debutants saluting.
Cruz-trained runners make up 80 per cent of horses to achieve the feat in 2019-20 – with Delightful Laos joining stablemates Private Secretary, Californiadeepshot and Transcendent – while the John Size-trained Beauty Legacy is the only other to manage it this term.
Cruz has the opportunity to add a fifth to that list at the city circuit, with Australian import California Concord stepping out in the Class Three Cheung Lin Shan Handicap (1,200m).
“It’s all about the training, these horses that win first-up have done a lot of trials already and they are more mature,” said Cruz, adding that luck also plays a part in ensuring a horse is in full health.
“It’s especially difficult in the first season because of Hong Kong’s weather. I reckon it’s the humidity that plays around with them.
“It’s about their immune system, a lot of horses get weak and if they are weak they are sure to get mucus.”
Delightful Laos can go one better by becoming the first Private Purchase to win his first two races this season, with Cruz saying the level of competition for previously raced horses traditionally makes winning two on the bounce near impossible.
“It’s a matter of how they train on,” he said. “You have to be a really mature horse.”
Unlike Private Secretary and Beauty Legacy, who started in Class Two, and Transcendent, who started in Class Three but had his second start in Class Two, Delightful Laos has another bite of the cherry in Class Three.
“Delightful Laos is in the right company to start with and is going to improve again,” Cruz said of the three-year-old’s chances in the Class Three D’aguilar Peak Handicap (1,650m).
“It could be a bit of a short distance for him, to me he’ll get to 2,000m and he’s more of a staying type of horse, but I believe he still has a great chance on Wednesday night.”
Derek Leung Ka-chun retains the ride and is looking forward to again partnering the horse, who jumps from barrier six and carries 128 pounds.
“Last time he won very well and he still made a couple of mistakes in the early stages, he has a big action so when the pace slowed down he was a bit keen,” he said. “I think he will learn a lot from that last run.
“He is a big horse but he is very well balanced and has good acceleration. Last time we got a clear run in the last 200m and he just flew home.”
Meanwhile, Cruz put big guns Exultant, Furore and Time Warp through their paces at Tuesday morning’s trials ahead of Sunday week’s Group One Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m).
“All three of them are fit and happy – all the jockeys are very happy with the horses,” Cruz said after the hit-out.
“They trialled very well and I think they’ll be fit and ready, they’re keeping their condition for the big race.”