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Tony Cruz upbeat as Exultant chases third G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup

May 19, 2021, 8:32:52 AM

Tony Cruz believes Exultant, Hong Kong's reigning Horse of the Year, will enter a small group of multiple winners of the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) when he returns to Sha Tin on Sunday (23 May).

Cruz, who is now the most prolific trainer in the race's recent era, will send three runners to the Cup this weekend as Exultant attempts to equal the 2006-07 and 2009 victories of Viva Pataca, the only galloper to win the staying contest at least three times.

Super Win (1975, 1976, and 1977) and Silver Lining (1978, 1979, and 1981) were equally dominant, but River Verdon, who won four times from 1991 to 1994, stands out as the season's most prolific competitor.

Cruz has dominated the mile and a half feature, winning seven of the last eight races – California Memory (2013), Blazing Speed (2014 and 2016), Helene Super Star (2015), Pakistan Star (2018), and Exultant (2018). (2019 and 2020).

Cruz partnered Makarpura Star in a deadheat decision in 1995, when Moore got a phenomenal quinella with Survey King, adding luster to an already illustrious record in the race (Greg Childs).

Cruz claims Exultant, trained by Zac Purton, will have his eighth victory in the race as a rider, as he seeks a third straight victory on the rugged Irish-bred stayer.

“I believe so (that Exultant will win), there are no international horses around this year, which is a huge help,” Cruz said, adding that he will also saddle Time Warp and Packing Waltham.

“I took (Exultant) to Conghua, so he's fun and young again. In Conghua, his trial (a 1200m victory on May 13) was excellent. He seems to be prepared.

“He's moving on in years, and he seems to be slipping a little. Zac returned from his most recent race (fifth to Loves Just You in the G1 FWD QEII Cup on April 25) and mentioned that he doesn't seem to have the same battle he used to have – (when) he wouldn't let another horse pass him.

“As a result, I agreed to take him to Conghua to rest. He can't really be tired. He's in great shape and raring to go for this race. I've spruced him up. I really believe he is 100 percent committed to this race.”

Exultant has four seconds, a third, and a fifth this season, obviously falling short of the form that enabled the son of Teofilo to win five G1s in the previous two seasons.

Due to the lack of Golden Sixty, Cruz is optimistic that the seven-year-old will be able to return to the winners' circle on Sunday.

“Obviously, he (Golden Sixty) would have been the biggest opposition, but I'm happy he (Francis Lui) decided not to run,” Cruz said before elaborating on the characteristics that make Exultant such a formidable foe.

“He's a real stayer, he's only got one pace, but he's got a strong spirit. He would not let another horse past him – that is his true talent. He's a top category horse, a Group One horse, with that kind of talent.

“He has a lot of pace and range. He lacks early pace, but he makes up for it with stamina. He was capable of running a two-mile sprint.

“The highlight is that he has never disappointed us, only this season, so I'm sure he'll be new soon, so I'll be very excited to see him in the winners' enclosure again, hopefully.”

“He's the best mile and a half horse I've ever had.”

Exultant will face Glorious Dragon, Butterfield, Panfield, Columbus County, and Russian Emperor in addition to his stablemates on Sunday.