The Hong Kong International Races’ all-time winningest trainer, Tony Cruz, strengthened his grip on the record book with a ninth HKIR success, courtesy of Time Warp in Sunday’s $3.2 million Hong Kong Cup (G1). The 3-1 second choice after a pair of narrow losses, most recently to 6-5 favorite Werther in the Jockey Club Cup (G2), the British import turned the tables under a well-judged ride by new pilot Zac Purton.
Time Warp, a recruit from the yard of Sir Mark Prescott, thereby achieved what a previous Prescott graduate, legendary Hong Kong champion Viva Pataca, never did. Throughout his prolific career for Hong Kong trainer John Moore, an HKIR trophy eluded Viva Pataca, who came closest when a half-length second to Ramonti in the 2007 Cup. Time Warp got the job done in his first Group 1 attempt.
Sunday’s renewal of the race was effectively over once Time Warp got loose on the lead rounding the first turn. Smart Layer and Neorealism, both forward in the opening strides, eased back into stalking spots by that point. Robin of Navan did not show speed, nor did the typically handy Deauville. That left Purton in pole position aboard a dangerous front runner, and his rivals paid for it. Time Warp cruised through a slow tempo before delivering the coup de grace – a final 400 meters (about a quarter-mile) in :22.08 – to clock 2:01.63 for the 2,000-meter (about 1 1/4-mile) trip.
Werther, held up further back than anticipated, offered a gallant rally, but he could get no closer than 2 1/4 lengths at the wire. The Japanese trio chased them home. Neorealism held third, Staphanos rallied from well back for fourth, and Smart Layer wound up fifth.
Poet’s Word, compromised by the pace scenario as well as taking the extreme overland route into the stretch, was a creditable sixth, the best of the Europeans. Locally based Secret Weapon, last year’s runner-up, never got involved in seventh. Rounding out the order under the wire were the rest of the Europeans, Robin of Navan, Garlingari, Aidan O’Brien’s duo of War Decree and Deauville, and finally Blond Me, who never recovered after being squeezed back at the start.
Purton’s sixth HKIR victory moved him into a tie for third with Frankie Dettori on the all-time jockeys’ list, not far off Gerald Mosse’s HKIR record of eight. The Cup was the one HKIR race hitherto missing on Purton’s resume, since he’d twice won the Hong Kong Mile (G1) (with Beauty Only last year and Ambitious Dragon in 2012) and the Sprint (G1) (with Aerovelocity in 2014 and 2016) along with a rare local coup in the Vase (G1) aboard Dominant in 2013.
“I didn’t think there was much speed on paper before the race so, unless anyone did anything differently, I thought I might be able to get my way in front,” Purton recapped. “I had a very easy time and that was key to the result. Tony has a great deal of confidence in his horse and he rang me this morning specifically to talk about this one so I thought he must have been pretty keen on him.”
“It’s no big surprise to me,” Cruz said of Time Warp’s winning Group 1 debut. “The horse has been pushing me to run in this class of race and I believe there is a lot of horse in him. 2000 meters around this course is perfect for him. If he has it his way, nobody can beat him.”
A former top jockey himself who won the Cup in its old 1800-meter guise in 1998, Cruz spoke of how the pre-race planning was executed to perfection.
“I told Zac to stay cool, ride the way I want this horse to be ridden. Zac did exactly what I wanted him to do. He just took him to the front and nobody was going to catch him. I said, ‘just wait for them to come, and when they push you, go.’ When they came, he just took off.
“As you saw with the races he won in France, he loves to go to the front. Today I thought there were no speed horses and nothing was going to take us on. Even if they had done, they couldn’t do him for speed.”
The Werther camp, in contrast, rued how the Cup panned out for the favorite.
“There wasn’t enough pressure up the front in the race – no pace – and not what he wanted,” jockey Tommy Berry said.
“There was no speed up front and you couldn’t be where he was unfortunately,” trainer Moore noted. “I wanted him to be ridden closer but, whatever happened, he just wasn’t there in the spot I wanted. It meant he had too much ground to make up and would have had to run an impossible sectional to win. He hasn’t disgraced and we can now look down the road to the Stewards’ Cup (G1), (Hong Kong) Gold Cup (G1) and perhaps Dubai.”
While the top two are logically set to square off again in Hong Kong’s marquee races, a rematch in an international venue may be on the cards.
“I would love to go abroad with him,” Cruz said of Time Warp. “He is a very versatile type of horse: he can go on the soft; he can go on the firm; he can go on the dirt too. I am sure this horse can go places. He is a very sound horse and he is a healthy horse. I haven’t done his program but I believe he can win elsewhere.”
By globetrotting Archipenko, Time Warp broke his maiden over Southwell’s Fibresand in the summer of his juvenile season. That was the beginning of a five-race winning spree, capped by the French contests Cruz had mentioned, the Criterium de l’Ouest and the 2016 Prix de Pontarme in his lone outing at three. The chestnut gelding subsequently joined Cruz and took time to find himself through the first half of 2017.
But by summer, Time Warp scored a hat trick culminating in the Class 1 handicap dubbed the Sha Tin Trophy on July 16. Now ready for a class hike into Group company for the new Hong Kong season beginning this fall, he was third to Beauty Generation (Sunday’s Mile hero) in the Celebration Cup (G3). Time Warp improved second up in the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (G3), where he nearly wired them, only to be caught by Nassa in course-record time. The final prep, the aforementioned Jockey Club Cup on November 19, was another case of “almost” as he was denied by Werther.
Time Warp promptly removed the “nearly” horse label on Sunday, and the Martin Siu Kim Sun colorbearer boasts a scorecard of 23-9-3-4.
Bred by Kirsten Rausing, who stands Archipenko at her Lanwades Stud, Time Warp was produced by the winning Stormy Atlantic mare Here to Eternity. His pedigree is laden with the Rasmussen Factor of inbreeding to superior females. Not only is Archipenko inbred 4×2 to Special, but Here to Eternity herself has three crosses of Special’s ancestress *Rough Shod II. Here to Eternity has a duplication via the full siblings Moccasin and Lt. Stevens, and she is also a matrilineal descendant of Special’s daughter Kilavea.