Tuning up for his HKD$20 million Group 1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) tilt and clash with Hong Kong’s champion, Golden Sixty – California Spangle cruised in familiar fashion through his barrier trial under a motionless Zac Purton on Tuesday (April 12) at Sha Tin.
Rolling into his customary position at the head of the pack, the star four-year-old – who finished second in last month’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) to Romantic Warrior – pleased trainer Tony Cruz with a 1m 10.52s first-past-the-post effort over 1200m on dirt.
“I expected it to be that way – I’m very happy with him and Zac says he did everything we wanted him to do, he was very calm and he did things very professionally,” Cruz said.
Since returning this season, California Spangle – a son of Starspangledbanner – has enjoyed a meteoric rise to a career-high mark of 101 with his go-forward style of running which delivered a sublime win in the HKD$12 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) when Purton was able to control the race expertly aboard the bay.
“I’m sure he’s 100 percent ahead of the race – we’re taking on Golden Sixty, I’m excited and if we could win this race it would be fantastic but I reckon we will put up a good fight,” Cruz said.
Since the inception of the FWD Champions Mile in 2001, 57 four-year-old runners have contested the race for five wins: Red Pepper (2001), Jeune King Prawn (2002), Figures (2004), Able One (2007) and Xtension (2011).
“I believe so (to being competitive), he’s fit and ready for this race. I’m very happy with how he has come out of the Derby, I think he should be spot on and he has a fantastic character to him,” Cruz said.
California Spangle has raced over the mile once across his career, finishing second to Romantic Warrior in the HKD$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) in January.
“You have to have a horse who is 100 percent fit (to win the race) and I’m sure he is ready to go, Zac is happy with the horse,” Cruz said.
Cruz – Hong Kong racing’s favourite son – has won the FWD Champions Mile twice with Bullish Luck (2005 & 2006), while Purton also has two wins in the race with Beauty Generation (2018 & 2019).
The FWD Champions Mile is one of three Group 1 contests on FWD Champions Day (Sunday, April 24), positioned alongside the Group 1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) and Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
In the 12th and final trial on Tuesday morning at Sha Tin, Flying Ace – David Hall’s unbeaten speedster – lengthened in style to cross the line first under Matthew Poon in a time of 1m 00.72s over 1050m on dirt.
The Swiss Ace four-year-old boasts an unblemished record across four starts, now rating 78 after kicking off his career as an unraced PPG (Privately Purchased Griffin) on a mark of 52.