Time Warp (133lb) returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night for the first time since June 2017 with connections hoping the gelding can enhance his notable record at the city track in the G3 January Cup Handicap.
Trainer Tony Cruz has opted to have his charge shoulder top-weight in the downtown venue's only Group race rather than face Beauty Generation over a mile in the G1 Stewards' Cup on 20 January.
“He won't be running in mile races anymore this season, it's too sharp for him so it makes sense to keep him over longer distances and I'm happy to take him back to Happy Valley,” Cruz said.
The iconic venue is where it all began for Time Warp: it's the place where the British import finally hit his straps, eight races into his Hong Kong career. That first success at the Valley came in a Class 2 handicap on 14 June, 2017 and resulted in an impressive track record performance; and he followed it with an all-the-way win before the month was out.
Since that last visit, Tony Cruz's charge has hit the heights with wins in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup and the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup last term, but has also proved to be a hit and miss character. The front-runner posted a solid effort last time, however, placing third in the latest edition of the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup behind his full-brother Glorious Forever.
“He ran well, I thought it was a solid effort,” regular rider Zac Purton said at Sha Tin. “He set the track record at Happy Valley so that's not a problem – he has to give weight away but I'll just let him bowl along and let him enjoy it.
“He seemed like he enjoyed his last run. That was because the pace was nice, he got into a rhythm and that's when he's happy. Maybe back under lights he might improve: he might think he's on the big stage again!”
Cruz, too, is pleased with his charge as he points him through a campaign that he hopes will yield further big successes.
“I'm very happy with his condition, he proved in his latest trial that he's fit enough and ready to go again,” he said.
“We'll go through the program here, taking in the Hong Kong Gold Cup and QEII Cup over 2000 metres and then he'll go a mile and a half in the Champions & Chater Cup later in the season – there's nowhere else for him to go.”
The field of 10 for the January Cup also features fellow top-class stayer Eagle Way (130lb) who won last year's edition off a 14-point lower rating at odds of 8/1.
Silvestre de Sousa continues the partnership that snared the G2 Jockey Club Cup (2000m) in November and ran fourth in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
“He ran a great race last time; I felt things didn't go his way,” the Brazilian said. “They went hard then slowed up on the top bend; I was on the inside and couldn't make a manoeuvre; I had to just sit and suffer. I wish the race had levelled out a different way.
“The time he won he just came around them but in a Group 1 you can't give ground away, you have to be a jockey and you have to have the courage to do the right thing. I thought I was doing the right thing but we got the wrong result – sometimes someone has to get it wrong for someone else to get it right.”
But Britain's champion jockey believes John Moore's charge has a good chance at recompense in the midweek feature.
“Now it's a different scenario going back to Happy Valley: he's won on the course so the expectation is big. We've got Time Warp in there and Zac is a top rider, he rides the course very well, but we'll give our best on the night,” he said.
“He feels good, he feels 100 percent already, but to win we need 110. But he feels great, he looks good and I think he's in good spirit.”
The high-class contest also features the Caspar Fownes-trained SIN G1 Kranji Mile victor Southern Legend (129lb), who could be Dubai World Cup Carnival-bound; the exciting South African import Northern Superstar (114lb); talented stayer Gold Mount (126lb); last time winner Simply Brilliant (114lb); course and distance winners Dinozzo (113lb) and Insayshable (113lb); as well as Citron Spirit (113lb) and Horse Of Fortune (113lb).
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