Cruz Hoping California Spangle Can Close Outstanding Season In Style

Tony Cruz is banking on firm conditions for California Spangle as his stable flagbearer bids to crown the best campaign of his career with victory in the HK$4.2 million G3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (23 June).

With victories in the G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) and the G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) in Dubai in the space of 20 days in March, California Spangle has been a revelation for Cruz and jockey Brenton Avdulla after being switched back to sprint contests from mile races.

Having earned more than HK$22 million this season alone for career earnings now in excess of HK$80 million, California Spangle will attempt to post a fourth win from nine starts this preparation before spelling.

“His work has been very good and everything is going according to plan,” Cruz said. “I just hope this weather keeps up and it’s a sunny day on Sunday. I think with top weight (135lb), he needs good ground, but I’m very happy with him.”

Looking ahead to next season, Cruz is considering another tilt at Dubai and is adamant the Starspangledbanner gelding will continue to specialise as a sprinter.

“Next season, I’ll be going for more sprint races instead of running in the mile. He’s a 1200m-1400 metre horse,” Cruz said. “It’s a possibility to travel again, maybe Dubai.”

Drawn barrier six in a field of seven runners, California Spangle (135lb) will face Taj Dragon (120lb), Healthy Happy (117lb), Flying Ace (116lb), Mugen (115lb), Packing Treadmill (115lb) and Telecom Fighters (115lb) on Sunday.

With seven top-three placings from 11 starts this season, Flying Ace makes only his second attempt at 1400m for David Hall and Alexis Badel.

Badel is optimistic Flying Ace is now better equipped to handle the trip after his only previous try at the distance in July, 2023 resulted in rare failure – 11th behind Flaming Rabbit – after the gelding over-raced.

“I think with California Spangle’s racing style, I should hopefully be in the right spot – 1400 metres might be his (Flying Ace’s) maximum, so it’s good to be on the inside and saving some energy,” the Frenchman said.

“I assume the horse is getting more mature and with the experience, he should be able to handle the distance. What’s encouraging is that the set-up is pretty favourable for me because the pace should be okay and I drew a good barrier (two).”

Cruz and Avdulla combine in the HK$4.2 million G3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m) with Five G Patch, who again clashes with stablemate La City Blanche (Matthew Chadwick).

“It’s too short for them, but I have to run them – there’s nowhere else to go. They’re both a mile-and-a-half horses, they need the longer distance and this will be too short for them,” Cruz said of the pair.

Five G Patch (second) and La City Blanche (third) chased home Rebel’s Romance in the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) at Sha Tin on 26 May. Cruz is also represented by Beauty Joy and The Best Peach.

His quartet faces Galaxy Patch (129lb), Happy Together (126lb), Nimble Nimbus (124lb), Sword Point (118lb), Chancheng Glory (115lb), All For St Paul’s (115lb) and C P Brave (115lb).

Sunday’s (23 June) 11-race card at Sha Tin starts at 4pm (18:00 AEST) with the Class 4 Ruby Handicap (1200m).

– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club

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