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California Spangle cruises to G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy glory

October 17, 2022 at 3:05:00 AM

California Spangle remains on target for a pair of blockbuster showdowns with Hong Kong champion Golden Sixty after eclipsing quality opposition to clinch the HK$5 million G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (16 October).

California Spangle remains on target for a pair of blockbuster showdowns with Hong Kong champion Golden Sixty after eclipsing quality opposition to clinch the HK$5 million G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (16 October).

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 G2 BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on 20 November, Purton said California Spangle would need to improve to upstage Golden Sixty ahead of the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) on 11 December 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 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).

John Size was the most successful trainer with a double, triumphing with Fantastic Way and Alexis Badel in the Class 2 Franck Muller Excellent Handicap (1200m) and Sweet Encounter in the Class 4 Girard-Perregaux Excellent Handicap (1400m). Both winners were piloted by Alexis Badel.

“Sweet Encounter ran well, he just repeated his first start, which is hard to do. It looks like he’s got a good future. His manners are good, he’s got a good temperament. He seems to understand racing now, so he’s going to be a nice horse to deal with,” Size said.

“Fantastic Way has been a bit unlucky in some races. Today, he was gifted the perfect passage and Alexis waited to help him finish the race off and he got away with it.”

Ricky Yiu continued an excellent season with 29/1 outsider Pleasant Endeavor, whose success in the Class 4 Parmigiani Fleurier Excellent Handicap (1000m) under Derek Leung followed Yiu’s victory over the same course with 31/1 winner Joyful Win on 25 September.

Yiu, 2019/20 Hong Kong Champion Trainer, has eight wins after 11 meetings this term.

S J Tourbillon landed a HK$1 million PP Bonus for his owners with a narrow victory in the H. Moser & CIE. Excellent Handicap (1800m) after scrambling to a nose margin under Lyle Hewitson for trainer Douglas Whyte.

Formerly prepared by Aidan O’Brien in Ireland where he was a two-year-old maiden winner before finishing second in the 2021 G3 Hampton Stakes (1993m) at Royal Ascot, S J Tourbillon had placed only once in 11 starts since export to Hong Kong.

Manfred Man successfully unveiled talented newcomer Island Golden with a gaping victory in the Class 4 Corum Excellent Handicap (1200m) under Silvestre de Sousa. Purchased from New Zealand, the Time Test gelding bounced straight to the lead before easing to a three-and-a-quarter length success.

De Sousa consolidated a strong start to the season by completing a brace aboard Pierre Ng’s Stunning Impact in the Class 4 Grand Seiko Excellent Handicap.

“I’m trying to make the most of the rides that I get and you can’t get every ride you want and I have to make the best of the rides that I get,” the Brazilian said. “But I’m pleased with the way things are going.”

Danny Shum’s decision to quickly back up Regency Master after the gelding’s third placing behind London Luckystar at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (12 October) was rewarded with victory in the Class 5 Piaget Excellent Handicap (2000m) before Jerry Chau produced a wonderful ride on Happy Daily to snare the Class 3 IWC Schaffhausen Excellent Handicap (1400m) for Peter Ho.

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (19 October).

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