12/10/2017 8:55AM

Time Warp roars to Hong Kong Cup triumph

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Hong Kong Jockey Club
Time Warp cruises to a 2 1/4-length win in Sunday's Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse.

HONG KONG - The esteemed Hong Kong trainer and former jockey Tony Cruz does not go long without winning one of the Hong Kong International Races. And Sunday, in the featured Hong Kong Cup, it did not take long to see Cruz was going to win another.

Time Warp made an early lead under Zac Purton, set a walking pace while unchallenged, then flew away from his futilely chasing rivals at the top of the stretch to win the Group 1, $3,203,000 Hong Kong Cup by 2 1/4 lengths over favored Werther.

“Tony called me this morning specifically to talk about this one, so I thought he must be pretty keen on him,” Purton said.

Cruz’s suggestions were clear and simple: Time Warp had the speed to control the race. Purton should put the horse in front, relax, and let things unfold from there.

“I was confident we were going to have our own tactics,” Cruz said. “He loves to go on the front. Today, I think there’s no speed horses. I told Zac to stay cool and ride the way I want this horse to be ridden, and he rode exactly like I wanted him to.”

Cruz’s record in the Hong Kong International Races is exemplary: 9-5-4 from just 62 runners. He has won a race on the card in 2003, 2004, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, and now this year.

“I could see a lot in this horse,” Cruz said. “Now, he had a perfect race and he could show how good he is.”

Time Warp and Purton already had established a clear lead before completing the short run into the first turn. The 400-meter split was a slow 26.37, the 800 an equally dawdling 51.39. Game over.

“I told Zac nobody is going to catch him,” Cruz said. “When they come, just stay calm.”

Purton sat chilly, the tempo quickening mildly, through 1200 meters in 1:15.76 and 1600 in 1:39.55. With a quarter-mile to go, he asked his mount for speed, and Time Warp instantly gave it. In 50 yards he had opened an insurmountable lead, and while Werther’s final 400 was a blazing 22.09, Time Warp came home a tick faster.

“There just wasn’t enough pressure in the race, it’s as simple as that,” said Werther’s jockey, Tommy Berry, whose mount was seventh early before trying to make a run from fifth. “Look, he put in a good run, but when they’re going slow there’s only so much you can do.”

Time Warp, who paid $8.10 in North America as the second choice, got his 2000 meters over good ground in a moderate 2:01.63, the final clocking obviously tamped down by the pace. Werther finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Neorealism, who raced too keenly from third in the early going but still delivered a solid kick to lead a three-four-five finish for Japanese horses, with Staphanos and Smart Layer behind him. Fourth-choice Poet’s Word finished off his race well enough but was wide and too far behind, and checked in 6th.

Time Warp is a 4-year-old English-bred gelding by Archipenko (winner of the QE II Cup here at Sha Tin) and out of the Stormy Atlantic mare Here to Eternity. Trained in England by Mark Prescott, Time Warp put together a five-race winning streak there and in France during 2015 and 2016 before being purchased to race in Hong Kong. He lost his first seven starts here before winning three straight to end his 2016 – 2017 Hong Kong season.

Cruz started him at 1400 meters this season, stretched him to 1800, then to 2000 when Time Warp was second to Werther last month in the Jockey Club Stakes. Time Warp hit peak form just in time to get a perfect trip on Hong Kong’s biggest stage – a place where his trainer has regularly shone.

*** Attendance for the Sunday card was announced as 94,560. All-sources handle on the 10-race card was an astonishing $203,958,285.