Exultant at peak for HK Vase defence, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

Exultant at peak for HK Vase defence

Tony Cruz-trained Champion Stayer triumphs in his lead-up race, the Jockey Club Cup, in dominant fashion

Exultant was at his dominant best in Sunday's Group 2 Jockey Club Cup over 2,000m at Sha Tin, galloping to victory in a faultless warm-up for his Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase defence next month.

The Teofilo gelding slotted in behind pace-setting siblings Glorious Forever and Time Warp before powering clear to win by a 11/4 lengths from last season's BMW Hong Kong Derby winner Furore in 1min 59.77sec.

"He ran well first-up, so there were no concerns for me about him getting back to his best. He just had to get to a distance that was suitable," said winning rider Zac Purton.

Trainer Tony Cruz was equally satisfied, following the first win of the campaign for Hong Kong's reigning champion stayer. He suggested that his star is on track to perhaps better last season's haul of three Group 1s.

"Everything has gone smoothly this season, I'm very happy with his condition and he seems to be a better horse this year," said Cruz.

Purton, though, hopes Sunday's win wasn't too much of a "gut buster" ahead of his main target on Dec 8.

"We went very hard through the first half of the race and I was surprised when Joao (Moreira) still tried to take off, but it flushed me out and meant I had to go," said Purton.

"But I knew my horse was capable of doing that, so it wasn't the end of the world for me. I just hope this hasn't been a gut buster prior to his grand final."

Exultant's form from an excellent 2018/19 season has continued to stand up around the world.

Last year's Vase runner-up Lys Gracieux claimed the Group 1 Cox Plate, while Waldgeist, who was fifth behind Exultant in that Sha Tin 2,400m feature, lowered Enable's colours in the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe just last month.

It was a good day for last season's HK Derby crop, with runner-up Waikuku turning over Beauty Generation in the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile, while Derby hero Furore bounced back for Hugh Bowman to grab second behind Exultant.

"Furore's a nice horse. He's probably just been ridden a bit upside down his first two runs and had no luck from a wide barrier last start," said Bowman.

"A good draw and a nice pace has helped him get in a rhythm and he showed his best today."

Trainer Caspar Fownes' globe-trotting Southern Legend closed off to grab third. His jockey, Alberto Sanna, was pleased with his mount's effort.

"He ran well. He finished off nicely and, in the corner, I found a bit of trouble coming up to the straight with Time Warp and Glorious Forever in front of me, so I had to wait, but he ran on OK," said Sanna.

Aethero posted a brilliant win in the third of the afternoon's features, the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint over 1,200m. - HK JC