Tony Cruz dominates G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup with La City Blanche and Five G Patch

La City Blanche gives Tony Cruz his fourth win as a trainer in the Queen Mother Memorial Cup.

Tony Cruz will bid for a remarkable eighth G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) as a trainer on 26 May after showcasing his stable’s staying might as La City Blanche and Five G Patch fought out the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) at Sha Tin on 5 May.

A Group 1 winner over 2000m in Argentina as a three-year-old in 2021 when he raced as Zodiacal, La City Blanche (115lb) reprised his best form with a stout display to deny Five G Patch (118lb) by a neck with Unbelievable (115lb) third, one and a quarter lengths further back.

Reflecting after the frenetic tempo set by Moments In Time (fourth), Money Catcher (eighth) and Ka Ying Generation (10th), the overall time of 2m 25.46s was the fastest since 1995 as the field strung out before the leading trio was gradually reeled in approaching the 600m.

With previous wins in this race aboard Super Pistachio in 2011 and Chefano in 2020, Chadwick was elated to triumph for his old boss, Cruz – who boosted his tally of Queen Mother Memorial Cup victories to four as a trainer.

“Any race to win is nice, so very happy,” Chadwick said. “We knew he (La City Blanche) was a top stayer, we knew he was fit and healthy, had no weight on his back. When they had me a bit tight around the turn by the 700m, he just thought about it a bit, so I just had to help him through that, but he travelled back on the bit nicely and we came around them and got them on the line.

“I was really happy to ride the horse and get the win on him and I’ll stick with him for the Champions & Chater. I had a lovely run. It’s great to sit on Tony’s horse and hopefully more wins to come.”

Cruz said: “This horse (La City Blanche) is nothing but a stayer. He has no early speed and he likes the good ground and today Matthew Chadwick rode a perfect race. I expected Five G Patch to win the race. I said to my owners ‘I think my two horses will be first and second today’.”

Looking to the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, Cruz said: “A mile and a half will be perfect for them and as long as the ground is going good.”

Six-time champion jockey Zac Purton reached the 100-win milestone for the eighth consecutive season, and ninth time overall, with a quartet on La Forza, Bottomuptogether, Aestheticism and Ka Ying Rising.

With 19 meetings left in the season, Purton leads Karis Teetan (68 wins) by 32 and was delighted to achieve a 2023/24 ambition.

“At the start of the season, 100 wins is always the benchmark – if you get to there, you have had a good season, so it’s nice to get there again and on a progressive horse, too,” Purton said after Ka Ying Rising surged to an impressive win in the Class 2 Brandy Snap Handicap (1200m) to earn a PPG Bonus of HK$1 million.

“He’s done a really good job – he’s always been a little bit lightly-framed and giving him the break between runs has really helped him. He was a lot calmer today, which is good. He’s still not the finished horse and he’s going to develop a bit more. We’re going to have some fun with him.”

With a Hong Kong career total of 1,710 wins, Purton is steadily bearing down on Douglas Whyte’s all-time record of 1,813 wins.

Toronado two-year-old La Forza claimed the Argonaut Plate (1000m) for Griffins for Jamie Richards to provide Purton with the first of his four winners before Frankie Lor delivered Purton’s second score with Hong Kong first-starter Bottomuptogether, a three-year-old by Shamus Award, in the Class 4 Isle of Man Handicap (1000m).

Francis Lui struck with Holy Lake under Vincent Ho to land the Class 3 Insular Handicap (1800m) to move within four of Pierre Ng in the trainers’ championship before Ng responded with Aestheticism in the Class 4 Norman Conqueror Handicap (1600m) under Purton to keep his buffer at five wins – 58-53.

David Hayes slotted his 600th Hong Kong winner and 40th for the season when Karis Teetan guided Regent Glory to victory in the Class 4 Manicou Handicap (1200m, dirt).

“I only found out today that I was close (to the milestone), so it was good to get the 600 up because I haven’t been here as long as other trainers so it’s nice to get that number,” Hayes said.

“I’m happy with the strike rate (this season) and it’s a good, consistent stable, I think, now. We’re trying to target 50 winners for the season with 50 horses.”

Hong Kong champion trainer in 1997/98 and 1998/99, Hayes saddled 458 winners in 10 seasons during his first Hong Kong stint between 1996 and 2005, adding 143 since returning to the city in 2020/21. Hayes sealed a double with Ka Ying Rising, pushing his tally this term out to 41 wins.

Golden Fairy notched his first victory at Sha Tin with his success for Chris So and Alexis Badel in the Class 5 Special Cargo Handicap (2000m) before Beauty Glory triumphed in the Class 4 Monaveen Handicap (1400m) for Tony Cruz and Brenton Avdulla.

David Hall and Teetan combined with Hong Kong Hall to clinch the Class 3 Game Spirit Handicap (1200m, dirt) before Hugh Bowman denied Purton a fifth victory with a short-head success on Benno Yung’s Tourbillon Prince in the Class 3 Inch Arran Handicap (1400m).