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James McDonald delights Tony Cruz with Chevalier Cup masterclass

November 27, 2023 at 4:20:48 AM

Tony Cruz has lauded James McDonald’s precision ride to snare the Class 1 Chevalier Cup Handicap (1600m) on The Golden Scenery with a ground-saving display which catapulted McDonald to a double at Sha Tin on Sunday (26 November).

Tony Cruz has lauded James McDonald’s precision ride to snare the Class 1 Chevalier Cup Handicap (1600m) on The Golden Scenery with a ground-saving display which catapulted McDonald to a double at Sha Tin on Sunday (26 November).

Untried beyond 1400m and regarded as suspect at 1600m, The Golden Scenery did not leave the fence after jumping smartly from barrier one to triumph in a slowly-run race for McDonald, who arrived in Hong Kong this morning to start a short-term stint which runs until 1 January.

Cruz booked McDonald to ride The Golden Scenery as soon as he learned the New Zealander was heading to Hong Kong as the dual Hong Kong champion trainer mulled the idea of thrusting The Golden Scenery out to a mile – uncharted territory.

“James rode a perfect race. I was thinking ‘Don’t tell me this horse, by Deep Field, he needs a mile’,” Cruz said. “So, I thought ‘Why not give it a shot?’ and I’ll put James on it and we can hope for the best result and that’s what happened,” Cruz said.

“We made a gamble and we got the best jockey on and we got a good result – that’s how we work.”

Having announced himself in perfect fashion by striking immediately with his first ride today when Wunderbar landed the Class 4 Chevalier Lifts & Escalators Handicap (1000m) for John Size, McDonald was at his best on The Golden Scenery with a rails-hugging ride.

“It worked out well, to have barrier one behind a moderate tempo and he was able to sprint home well,” McDonald said. “Obviously, he’s suspect at a mile but today wasn’t really a genuine run mile, so he was able to get it.”

Trailing leader Telecom Fighters into the straight, McDonald resisted the temptation to angle to the outside but instead stayed on the fence before The Golden Scenery (125lb) denied Atullibigeal (118lb) by a short head. Happy Together (115lb) was third, one and a half lengths further away. The overall time of 1m 34.67s was slower than standard.

After another bountiful Australian spring, McDonald started his short-term contract in ideal circumstances when promising sprinter Wunderbar won with ease.

“The monkey is straight off the back and it needed to be done. I’ve got some nice rides, I needed to convert,” McDonald said. “He’s a beautiful horse, beautifully educated. He just jumped, bridled all the way through – I think he’s extremely talented.”

Pierre Ng extended his lead atop the Hong Kong trainers’ championship with a double as I Give became the first horse to post five wins this season. The Per Incanto gelding started the season in Class 5 with a rating of 37 but his rich vein of form has carried him through Class 4 and, with today’s triumph in the Class 3 Chevalier Construction Handicap (1200m) under Andrea Atzeni, Ng is confident even more is to come.

“I don’t think anything can stop him at 1200 (metres) at the moment, so hopefully he can do a little bit more for us in three or four weeks’ time,” said Ng, who has 26 wins for the campaign. “He’s fit and well. I think we just go along as the season goes.”

Drombeg Banner landed the Class 2 Chevalier Car Dealership Handicap (1400m) under a masterful ride by Andrea Atzeni. The Starspangledbanner gelding collected a HK$1.5 million PP Bonus in logging his second win this season and fourth overall from only nine starts in Hong Kong.

Chancheng Glory edged closer to Four-Year-Old Classic Series participation with his third win in a row for Francis Lui. The Mor Spirit gelding responded brilliantly under Lyle Hewitson to land the Class 3 Chevalier Cold Storage & Logistics Handicap (1600m).

Apex Top posted his second win for Douglas Whyte and Luke Ferraris when the South African-bred gelding edged to a narrow success in the Class 5 Chevalier Insurance Handicap (1400m) before David Hall-trained Aca Power won the Class 4 Chevalier Property Development Handicap (1200m, dirt) under Alexis Badel.

“He’s such a little professional, he’s easy to have around the stable and he paraded beautifully today. He just doesn’t get excited and he enjoys his work – it was good that his owners were rewarded today,” Hall said.

Michael Chang and Keagan De Melo combined with Smokey Bear in the Class 3 Chevalier Property Management Handicap (1200m, dirt). A son of Kodiac, Smokey Bear has won his only two starts on Sha Tin’s dirt circuit.

Karis Teetan moved into second place on the Hong Kong jockeys’ championship with victory aboard Whyte-trained Mister Dapper in the Class 4 Chevalier Aluminium Engineering Handicap (1600m). Teetan boosted his tally to 21 wins and with more minor placings overtook Hugh Bowman, who is sidelined with injury.

Benno Yung’s Fun Together made it two wins in a row with an easy victory in the Class 4 Chevalier Building Supplies & Engineering Handicap (1400m) for Jerry Chau.

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (29 November).

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