Tony Cruz expects Exultant to reverse recent form with stablemate Time Warp in Sunday’s FWD QEII Cup at Sha Tin.
The six-year-old, who raced as Irishcorrespondent when trained by Mick Halford in Ireland and was third to Churchill and Thunder Snow in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, has three Group One wins to his name in Hong Kong and was narrowly beaten when second in this 10-furlong prize last year.
Exultant was favourite to strike gold in his warm-up run in February’s Hong Kong Gold Cup, but despite making late progress in the final furlong, he could not reel in all-the-way hero Time Warp.
Cruz admitted he was disappointed with the result, but believes this weekend’s seven-runner field is a positive factor, in a race that will be live on Sky Sports Racing.
He said: “I’m very pleased with him, I think he should win this race on Sunday.
“It’s a smaller field this time so Exultant will be closer in the run. He was too far back last time and got into trouble, that cost him and he just couldn’t catch Time Warp – I’m still disappointed with how that worked out for Exultant, I think he should have won that race.”
Exultant is drawn in stall five, with Time Warp on his inner and Cruz can see his front-runner again trying to do it the hard way under Joao Moreira.
He added: “Time Warp will probably lead the race again.
“Joao Moreira is important for Time Warp and he seems to me to have kept his form. He’s doing what I expect of him in his work, so I expect him to run his race but he’s an old horse, so we don’t know if he can do that again.
“But he’ll get out in front and the rest of the field will just follow him.”
Moreira also has a leading chance in the FWD Champions Mile with Waikuku.
The John Size-trained runner will clash will headline horse Beauty Generation in the Group One, having finished five lengths adrift in the Chairman’s Trophy earlier this month.
Waikuku had previously beat Beauty Generation though, and Size is hoping he can bounce back to his best this time.
The trainer said: “I don’t think anything went wrong for him in the Chairman’s Trophy. He had two very strong races in the Hong Kong Mile and the Stewards’ Cup and he might have felt that. He had a break after and maybe just needed a race to bring him back into form.
“These Group One races are a lot of work for him, this is his outer limits, so for him to run two big races in a row at Group One level it sapped his energy.
“We’ll see how we go – he hasn’t got any problems or anything, it’s just a matter of what energy he’s got left to finish off the season with.”