California Cruises to G2 win
California Spangle remains on target for a pair of blockbuster showdowns with Hong Kong champion Golden Sixty after eclipsing quality opposition to clinch the HKD$5 million Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (October 16).
Perfectly rated in the lead by Zac Purton, Tony Cruz’s rising star cruised through the first 800m in 47.78s after crossing from barrier 12 before surging home in 45.63s to comfortably resist Tourbillon Diamond and Savvy Nine as Group 1 winners Panfield (ninth), Waikuku (11th) and Russian Emperor (12th) resumed with solid performances.
Looking ahead to a probable clash with Golden Sixty – and also the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner Romantic Warrior – in the Group 2 BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on November 20, Purton said California Spangle would need to improve to upstage Golden Sixty ahead of the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile (1600m) on December 11 at the 2022 LONGINES Hong Kong International Races.
“California Spangle’s won the race comfortably today but if he’s going to go up against Golden Sixty, he probably wants to go a little bit better than he has today but it was a still a very good performance, he carried a bit of weight (133lb), so let’s see when we get to next start and we get a little bit of an allowance off him (Golden Sixty) and then the big day will be in December,” said Purton, who has won all three of Hong Kong’s Group races so far this season.
“It’s very exciting. Golden Sixty has been our champ for a few seasons now and he is (champion) for a reason – he doesn’t lose very often – and he beat us last time we measured up against him. I think he’s still probably got the edge on us, but we’re improving and we look forward to the battle.”
Unchallenged in front, California Spangle ultimately had a length and a half to spare over Tourbillon Diamond to post his eighth victory in 12 starts.
“I don’t think he could have had it any easier than what he did. He began very well from the outside gate and I didn’t ask him at all to go forward and get across because I wanted to take my time and try and get him to switch off that little bit more in the mid-part of his race and that worked. He really switched off well today, so he had the race under his control the whole way,” Purton said.
“I was very comfortable the whole race and I would have been quite disappointed if he didn’t win today with the run that he had but he’s got the job done, he did what he had to do and he’s going to continue to progress, I think. He’s a very exciting horse, a horse that I’ve been looking forward to and let’s just hope he can find that little bit more that’s required and make it really competitive.”
Cruz believes the BMW Hong Kong Derby runner-up has progressed in the off-season.
“This time he’s a much more professional horse. He’s waiting on the jockey to ask him to go, which is fantastic. He’s still the fastest around, and he can dictate the race,” Cruz said. “Zac rode the horse with pure confidence. This is the way to ride the horse. This is where good jockeys can improve the horse because the jockey matches the horse.”
Purton (25 wins) extended his lead over nearest rival Vincent Ho (10 victories) to 15 by slotting a double atop Packing Treadmill for Francis Lui in the Class 3 La Suisse Watch Excellent Handicap (1200m).
CALIFORNIA SPANGLE was a PP by Badgers Bloodstock off Gaybrooke Lodge for Howard Liang.