Tony Cruz has turned to regular go-to Alvin Ng to take temporary hold of Time Warp’s reins from regular partner Zac Purton in Sunday’s G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1600m).
Time Warp (128lb) steps out for the first time this term in the Sha Tin feature, in which Purton will continue his partnership with top-weighted Beauty Generation (133lb), Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year and an impressive winner of the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) on 1 October.
The Champion Jockey was in Time Warp’s camp last term when the big Archipenko chestnut blazed a trail to G1 success not once but twice - firstly in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and secondly when becoming the first horse to dip below two minutes over Sha Tin’s 2000m in the Hong Kong Gold Cup.
But Ng’s association predates Purton’s, the freelance rider having established a record of three wins from five rides on Time Warp as the British import advanced from Class 2 to the elite grades through the tail-end of the 2016/17 campaign.
“Alvin will be back on him at the weekend; the idea is that after that we’ll see if Zac wants to ride him, and, if not, we’ll look at someone like Silvestre (de Sousa). Zac still has the option going into the Ladies’ Purse next month,” Cruz said at Sha Tin on Tuesday.
Time Warp, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
For Ng, Sunday’s race is a chance to take a ride on a spotlight horse on a big occasion. The rider is seeking a first win this term, having secured only 15 race rides to date. His victory count last season stood at two from 275 mounts.
“I just keep working hard and hope that it pays off, there’s not a lot more I can do,” he said. “I’m thankful that the owners and trainer let me ride Time Warp, I’ve had some success on him before and I know him well.
“I’ll let the horse find his rhythm and let him roll. It’s important to get a good jump - sometimes he can play up a little bit and miss it. Luckily, every time I’ve ridden him he has jumped well.”
Time Warp’s win in last December’s LONGINES Hong Kong Cup completed a full set of LONGINES Hong Kong International Races for Purton. The Australian has been in the saddle for each of the five-year-old’s two barrier trials this term, while Ng has been aboard for fast work
“His Last barrier trial was much better than the first,” Purton said. “He showed a bit more ping and got into his stride more comfortably. Obviously, he had another horse in that trial that took him on and made him roll along so it was a good, searching trial for him. He would have taken some benefit out of that.”
Purton is focused on Beauty Generation at present, though, and erred towards prudence when asked about future engagements.
“We’ll see how Time Warp goes on the weekend and then assess it after that,” he said. “The mile is not his preferred distance but he is fresh and I’m sure he’ll run well.”
No warp in Time’s prep
Cruz expressed his satisfaction with Time Warp’s preparation for the new season and is confident that the gelding’s dip in form late last term was not a pattern for the future.
“I’m happy with the horse; his first trial this season wasn’t that top but his second trial was good. He did everything I wanted him to do and he’s in excellent condition coming into this race,” the handler said.
“His training has been very smooth, no hiccups, no setbacks, so assuming he runs well on Sunday we’ll follow the same programme as last year, the Ladies’ Purse into the Jockey Club Cup and then the big race in December.”
After last February’s scintillating win the G1 Hong Kong Gold Cup, Time Warp finished 10th in the G2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) and a sub-par eighth in the G1 QEII Cup (2000m). That prompted the Jockey Club stewards to require that the horse satisfy them in a barrier trial - Time Warp failed that test and so missed out on the G1 Champions & Chater Cup (2400m).
“He’s in great health now and he’s a very sound horse, too, he’s strong and powerful,” Cruz said. “I’m sure he’ll show us again this season what he showed us last season. He’s not at his peak yet and the mile is too short for him - 2000 metres is his best - but he’s still in a place to run a good race.”
The exciting field is set to include a host of Hong Kong’s best gallopers. Time Warp’s stablemate Pakistan Star will get his season up and running having rounded out last term with brilliant wins in the G1 QEII Cup and G1 Champions & Chater Cup.
The likes of past Horse of the Year Werther, former Champion Miler Beauty Only, fellow G1 winner Seasons Bloom, and potential stars such as Singapore Sling, Nassa, Nothingilikemore and Southern Legend are also among the entries.
Sunday’s card will also feature the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) in which G1 winners Mr Stunning and Ivictory will line up along with rising star Hot King Prawn.