Popular grey stayer California Memory has a golden chance to put his cards on the table as a Horse Of The Year frontrunner in Sunday’s Hong Kong Gold Cup at Sha Tin.
The seven-year-old has a great record over the 2,000m course, where he first came to prominence winning this race in 2011 in an upset, and he has followed up with the past two Hong Kong Cups as well as the Group Two Jockey Club Cup last November.
The 2012 Gold Cup, when California Memory had to play third fiddle to Ambitious Dragon and Xtension, also saw the start of some joint problems that affected him for the rest of last season.
But Tony Cruz has brought him back to top form and, with Ambitious Dragon unable to dominate this season and absent from Sunday’s race through a minor injury, the way is open for the grey to make his case as the Horse Of the Year. With the Jockey Club Cup and the international already banked, a Gold Cup would give him the front running and his third in the Stewards’ Cup after being caught wide last month showed he is holding top form.
Cruz has three in the Gold Cup, with Beauty Touch looking outgraded, but second-string Pure Champion wouldn’t totally surprise after the trainer’s very positive comments following his last Group Three success.
Cruz has prospects elsewhere on the card too, with promising three-year-old Bullish Friend out to frank the form of another smart one in Sea Dragon.
Unbeaten Sea Dragon took every inch of the race to get past Bullish Boy when they met two weeks ago and, with no Sea Dragon around this time, fans will make Bullish Friend favourite to go one better.
In the same ownership, Bullish Boy has prospects in the fourth race for Cruz, while the trainer is also double-handed with Helene Fun Star and Green Manner in race nine.
By Nathan Mody