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CALIFORNIA SPANGLE wins the HK Classic Cup (G1)

California Spangle, with a major assist from Zac Purton, led from start to finish in the $1.54 million Hong Kong Classic Cup on Sunday at Sha Tin, hanging on for a one-length win in the second leg of the 4-year-old classic series.

Stamina concerns regarding California Spangle came into play during the closing stages of this one-turn race over 1,800 meters, and California Spangle, described by his connections as a natural sprinter, had been run down last month in the 1,600-meter Hong Kong Classic Mile. But Purton put his mount right on the lead, dictated terms through a very modest tempo, and got the homestretch timing just right, going to a windmill crop in the final strides to nurse his mount home first.

“Of course, I was worried the last 200 meters. He was out on his feet, and it was a good effort,” Purton said.

The betting public seemed generally unconcerned about California Spangle’s ability to see out the trip, making the gelding an odds-on favorite. Trained by Tony Cruz, California Spangle almost certainly will try to stretch out to 2,000 meters in the Hong Kong Derby, but neither Purton nor Cruz seemed bullish on his chances. California Spangle, who has only raced in Hong Kong, now has a glittering career mark of 8-6-2-0 and could become an excellent horse over shorter distances once he has run through this lucrative and locally prestigious age-restricted series. Bred in Ireland, he’s by Starspangledbanner, a speed influence, but gets a dose of stamina from his dam, the High Chaparral mare Pearlitas Passion. He was bought privately by Badgers Bloodstock off Jim McCartan's Gaybrook Lodge stables as a breeze up horse.

Turin Redsun, a Dubawi colt who closed well to finish fourth at astronomical odds in the Classic Mile, validated that performance Sunday, running home from eighth at the top of the stretch to get second while turning in the race’s fastest final 400 meters, 23.23 seconds. A length farther back in third came Money Catcher, a 60-1 shot who sat second and, like the winner, benefited from the tepid pace.

Romantic Warrior, who had won his first five starts, including the Classic Mile, finished fourth, a strong showing given the way his trip unfolded. Karis Teetan was unable to find a spot for his mount down the backstretch run and came around the entire turn about four paths wide with no cover.

Senor Toba, who was narrowly fifth, and The Irishman, a nose behind, each had essentially impossible trips racing from the back of the 14-horse field. The Irishman broke from post 14 and to avoid a wide run like Teetan’s, jockey Vincent Ho dragged The Irishman back to last through the long backstretch run.

The Hong Kong Derby is run March 20.


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