In the throes of another successful season, Tony Cruz is aiming to land a sentimental victory in the Class 3 Apprentice Jockeys’ School 50th Anniversary Cup Handicap (1200m) with Super Fortune at Sha Tin on Sunday (June 5).
Hong Kong racing’s most successful home-grown product as a multiple champion jockey and trainer, Cruz, 65, was among the first intake at the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School (AJS) when it was founded in 1972.
Half a century on, Cruz occupies a rarified perch on the Hong Kong racing landscape after slotting 2,348 wins – 946 as a six-time champion jockey and a further 1,402 as a dual champion trainer – and remains famously committed to further achievement.
With 57 wins for the season, Cruz trails only Frankie Lor (79) and John Size (77) as he continues to relentlessly chase success.
Twice victorious this campaign over Sunday’s course and distance, Super Fortune will jump from the outside gate of 10 under Karis Teetan and will attempt to replicate last month’s pace-setting win despite rising six pounds in the handicap to 132lb.
“He won well last time and I’m expecting him to go to the front again and dictate the race again,” Cruz said. “He’s in good form and I expect him to run well again.
“I would love to win this race. The Apprentice Jockeys’ School gave me the chance to learn about horses and also jockey professionalism – 50 years ago, I made the start of my career at the Apprentice Jockey’s School. It has meant a lot to me.”
Frankie Lor, another AJS graduate, will saddle Adios in the Apprentice Jockeys’ School 50th Anniversary Cup, hopeful the Snitzel gelding can improve on his first-up second on 25 May at Happy Valley.
“It was his first time at a Happy Valley night meeting so he was looking around, that’s why he jumped a bit slow. Usually, he jumps fast but maybe he can try to follow some horses and learn something from that. There’s no need to lead and hopefully at Sha Tin he’s more relaxed,” Lor said.
Adios will jump from gate two under in-form Derek Leung, another AJS product, who is in the midst of an impressive streak having ridden at least one winner at each of the past nine meetings.
Douglas Whyte’s wish for an inside alley for Ace One was granted when the last-start winner drew gate one for Ruan Maia.
“Ruan gave him a peach of a ride last start and he came to the outside but, having said that, the horse has improved and with a good gate, I think he’ll be competitive again,” Whyte said.
“I think he’s a Class 3 horse, anything over and above that would be beneficial, but I think he’s a genuine Class 3 horse.”
With 39 wins this season, Whyte is on the cusp of reaching his seasonal benchmark – 40 wins – as he reflects on a campaign which has delivered three Group 1 successes with stable stars Russian Emperor and Stronger.
“Where I’ve got to, I’ve got to say it’s a mark that I’m comfortable with,” Whyte said, who trained 44 winners in his first season in 2019/20 and 41 last campaign.
“I would certainly love to get above my previous best mark (44) and I think it’s achievable but what I will say is that for any trainer to get 40 wins in a season in Hong Kong is difficult. So, if you can achieve that year in, year out, it’s something to reflect positively on.”
With a record 1,813 wins in the saddle as a 13-time champion jockey and a further 124 as a trainer in an ascendant training career, Whyte has 1,937 Hong Kong victories overall.