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California Spangle showcases Champions Mile hopes with G2 Chairman’s Trophy win

April 10, 2023 at 3:38:02 AM

Tony Cruz believes California Spangle is capable of beating Golden Sixty in the HK$20 million G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) on 30 April after a dogged G2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) triumph at Sha Tin on Sunday (9 April).

Tony Cruz believes California Spangle is capable of beating Golden Sixty in the HK$20 million G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) on 30 April after a dogged G2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) triumph at Sha Tin on Sunday (9 April).

Registering his first win since a famous defeat of Golden Sixty in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) on 11 December, California Spangle (128lb) was pushed to a half-length margin by Money Catcher (123lb) after Zac Purton was unable to adopt his customary leading role.

Despite the gritty nature of the win, Cruz is adamant California Spangle will reprise his pace-setting role next start – and retains the capacity to topple Golden Sixty.

“We still won the race today and I’m very happy about that, but next time he runs we’ll definitely go to the front,” Cruz said after California Spangle stalked Healthy Happy before edging to the front in the straight and staving off Money Catcher and Beauty Joy late.

“It wasn’t his kind of race today, the time (1m 34.17s) was slow, too. I reckon next we’re definitely not going to run this way again. We’re not going to make the same mistake again – he should have led the race. He’s so used to going to the front, you can’t stop him. But today he still wins.”

With 10 wins and seven minor placings from 17 starts, California Spangle looms as one of Golden Sixty’s main obstacles in the G1 FWD Champions Mile and Cruz is hopeful of upsetting Hong Kong’s highest-rated horse again.

“He’s (California Spangle) in top shape now and I reckon he’ll be ready for the 30th (of April). I’m very confident about my horse and I believe we still have a good chance (of beating Golden Sixty).”

Five-time Hong Kong champion Purton counted California Spangle among four winners on the card – including Lucky Sweynesse, Red Lion and Red Elegance – but said he was surprised by California Spangle’s apparent struggle with Money Catcher and Beauty Joy.

“Probably the first time he’s been on the canvas and got himself up off it and got the job done, so hopefully he takes confidence out of that,” Purton said. “I didn’t think I would be in that position – I thought he would win comfortably. He’s won, his confidence will be there that he can do it again.”

Hugh Bowman marked his return from Australia with a quartet for four different trainers – El Valiente for Caspar Fownes, Amazing Teens for John Size, We Are Hero for Manfred Man and Happy Golf for Frankie Lor – and his first four-timer in Hong Kong.

“All my horses today all looked to have great chances – some were short-priced favourites – and they’ve delivered. I’m delighted, I’m enjoying my time and I’m loving the racing, hence the agreement to extend and it’s great to be back here after a week off, tidying up some loose ends back in Australia and hopefully the momentum can continue,” the Australian said.

Asked if he would consider extending into the 2023/24 season after reaching 43 wins this term, Bowman said: “I’m certainly going to consider that if the Club will have me. I’ve got my family to think about but it’s certainly high on my priority.”

Bowman’s first strike came aboard El Valiente for Fownes with a comfortable victory in the Class 5 Harlech Handicap (1650m, dirt) before adding to the haul by partnering Size-trained Amazing Teens to success in the Class 4 Lugard Handicap (1800m, dirt) in a triumph which gave 11-time Hong Kong champion trainer Size his 50th win of the season.

Luke Ferraris disrupted Bowman’s surge by slotting his fourth winner from the past three meetings by winning the Class 4 Peel Handicap (1600m) on Smiling Collector for Jimmy Ting before Bowman guided Man-trained We Are Hero to an emphatic victory in the Class 3 Hong Kong Lions Cup Handicap (1000m).

Bowman’s spree continued with Happy Golf’s triumph in the Class 4 Plantation Handicap (1200m) for Lor after Fownes extended a stunning recent run by claiming the first Griffins race of the season when Kaholo Angel – a son of Havana Grey – landed the Barker Plate (1000m) under Vincent Ho.

“Very professional horse. He’s still a colt. We were very close to castrating him a few weeks ago, but I decided to hold back on that because he’s got a good brain. He’s a very focused horse, and it’s nice to see him do a job like that first up,” said Fownes before El Valiente gave the stable its sixth win from 10 runners.

Purton partnered Red Elegance to victory in the Class 4 Homestead Handicap (1000m) for Jamie Richards before snaring successive Group 2 features with Lucky Sweynesse in the Sprint Cup and California Spangle.

Size’s impressive Red Lion gave Purton his third consecutive win with victory in the Class 2 Pollock Handicap (1400m) before Ho closed the card in style with success in the Class 3 Severn Handicap (1400m) atop Taj Dragon for Pierre Ng.

A three-time winner as a two-year-old in 2021 when he raced as Taj Alriyadh, the Mehmas gelding had been unplaced in four Hong Kong starts until this afternoon’s powerful performance.

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday (12 April).

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