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Harry Bentley, Tony Cruz claim G3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy with Whizz Kid

January 8, 2024 at 4:22:55 AM

Celebrating his third victory as a trainer in the G3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m), Tony Cruz deflected credit for the success to jockey Harry Bentley after the Englishman crowned his comeback to riding with an upset win on outsider Whizz Kid at Sha Tin on Sunday (7 January).

Celebrating his third victory as a trainer in the G3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m), Tony Cruz deflected credit for the success to jockey Harry Bentley after the Englishman crowned his comeback to riding with an upset win on outsider Whizz Kid at Sha Tin on Sunday (7 January).

Starting at 24/1, Whizz Kid (115lb) upstaged Invincible Sage (115lb) and Packing Treadmill (117lb) to provide Bentley with his first Group race triumph in Hong Kong less than a week after the lightweight rider returned to competition after serving a two-month suspension for improper conduct.

Cruz, who previously won the HK$4.2 million feature with champion sprinter Silent Witness in 2004 and 2005, praised Bentley’s display after the Briton allowed Whizz Kid to stride forward and sit outside Victor The Winner before taking a lead he would never surrender, clocking 56.86s – more than a second outside of standard time.

“He’s been a great horse for the stable, but I must give the credit to Harry Bentley. He rode a perfect race. I told him to jump and go with the flow, and he did exactly that,” Cruz said after replacing blinkers with a visor on the five-year-old gelding.

“I’ve been trying everything on him and that’s the only thing that works. It worked today. He’s a healthy horse and has never been a headache. He’s honest and he’s easy to train.

“I thought Happy Valley was his track, but with the programme, I had no option but to go for this race. Otherwise, there’s nowhere else to go. I gambled on it, tried something different and it turned out good.”

Cruz said he would “give Bentley more opportunities in my stable. He’s very natural, he’s got good hands and like I said to him today to ‘go with the flow’, he did exactly that. I reckon we haven’t seen the best of him yet in Hong Kong.

“This horse is as honest as you can ever get, but it’s how the jockey rides him that’s most important,” Cruz said.

Bentley was elated post-race after returning last week to race riding, but having to wait until today’s feature to score – before capping his afternoon by sealing a double atop Blue Marlin for Douglas Whyte in the Class 3 Lai King Handicap (1400m).

“I’m delighted, first day back here at Sha Tin, to get a double,” Bentley said. “Firstly, getting my first Group win here in Hong Kong was great and great to partner up with Blue Marlin again – he’s been a great horse for me.

“This is the fourth time I’ve won on him, third time this season. He’s been plagued by a few bad draws but I’ve been the fortunate person to step in when he comes back to a nice draw.

“He’s a tough horse who has run only a few days ago (1 January) – fair play to the trainer and from a personal point of view it’s great to be back.”

Helios Express strengthened already strong Four-Year-Old Classic Series claims in spectacular style with dominant win in the Class 2 Butterfly Handicap (1600m) under Hugh Bowman.

“This horse excites me. I just sat on him in the one trial recently over 1200m on the dirt and he didn’t quite give me the feel he gave me today but the writing was on the wall – he’s got an excellent record and John has looked after him nicely,” Bowman said, pointing to the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) on 4 February.

“There’s a sense of timing about him for the Hong Kong Classic Mile next month. He’s an exciting horse.”

Bowman finished with a double after earlier teaming with David Hall’s Hong Kong Hall in the Class 4 Lei Muk Shue Handicap (1200m).

“I think his experience meant a lot today. Putting himself in the right place got him the win. He’s a big strong horse and hopefully, he can keep improving,” Hall said.

Aoraki Summit, who is eligible for the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, swept to an impressive win in the Class 4 Shek Yam Handicap (1400m), triumphing by three-and-a-quarter-lengths for Frankie Lor and Andrea Atzeni.

“I think he is still good in Class 3. He is still improving and later on I think he can handle a little bit further, like 1600 metres because he’s by Tavistock,” Lor said.

Taking his seasonal tally to 19, Atzeni completed a double aboard Size-trained Fast Buck in the Class 4 Shek Lei Handicap (1200m, dirt).

Caspar Fownes struck with Capital Delight in the Class 3 Kwai Shing Handicap (1200m, dirt) when the Capitalist gelding surged from last to score by a head for Vincent Ho.

Angus Chung extended his strong season with victory aboard Me Tsui-trained Beat Hollow in the Class 5 Wan Tsui Handicap (1200m, dirt) before Jerry Chau’s brilliant front-running ride on a willing Special Hedge enabled the pair to narrowly snare the Class 4 Tsui Lok Handicap (1800m).

Ellis Wong joined Chung and Chau in the winners’ list when the 10lb-claiming apprentice guided Ricky Yiu’s Pleasant Endeavor to victory in the Class 3 Choi Yuen Handicap (1000m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (10 January) with the running of the G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m).

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