Horse Racing
California Spangle ready to shine for Cruz, Purton in Hong Kong Classic Cup

By Leo Schlink
25/02/2022 12:47

Zac Purton reunites with California Spangle.
Zac Purton reunites with California Spangle.

Attempting to fill a rare gap in a spectacular Hong Kong riding resume, Zac Purton will be entrusted with the task of managing California Spangle’s natural speed to meet the stamina challenge presented by the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (27 February).

A five-time winner from 1000m-1200m, California Spangle was caught late by Romantic Warrior in the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) on 30 January at his first attempt beyond six furlongs in a performance crammed with class and determination.

Ridden by Matthew Chadwick on that occasion, California Spangle has Purton – fresh from a Happy Valley four-timer and seeking his first win in the Hong Kong Classic Cup – in the saddle on Sunday and trainer Tony Cruz is keen to use the bay’s speed from barrier six to lead before controlling the tempo.

“He’s got that speed all the time – he’s the fastest horse in the race – and we can’t restrain him too much,” said Cruz, who last won the Classic Cup with Floral Pegasus and Gerald Mosse in 2007.

“Hopefully California Spangle can get a nice run and he won’t have to deal with too much pressure. He’s in great shape and I’m very happy with him, everything that we have planned for has gone according to plan.

“Condition-wise, I can’t fault him right now. Everything has gone to what we wanted, so let’s see how he handles 1800 metres now.”

California Spangle bolts in for Zac Purton.

Purton has ridden California Spangle on three occasions for two wins and a narrow defeat.

Eclipsed by unbeaten Hong Kong International Sale Graduate Romantic Warrior in the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) after covering ground when leading from gate 13, California Spangle will have a notionally simpler task on Sunday from the middle of the line.

Conversely, Danny Shum’s Romantic Warrior will start from gate 13 this Sunday after jumping from barrier one in the Hong Kong Classic Mile and jockey Karis Teetan is acutely aware of the contrasting scenario.

“That’s the only thing we have to think about. Last time we had a sweet run after drawing barrier one, so it’s going to be a game-changer from an outside gate (this time). I will speak with Danny to make a plan,” Teetan said.

“Of course, it’s going to be tricky but it’s a long back straight from the 1800m start and we have plenty of time as to where we want to be, but also I have to keep in mind that I can’t over-use him and let him do what he wants to do so that he can produce his powerful kick in the last 200 metres.”

Karis Teetan bids for a second Hong Kong Classic Cup.
Karis Teetan bids for a second Hong Kong Classic Cup.

Teetan was last successful in the second leg of the Four-Year-Old series aboard John Size’s Thunder Fantasy in 2015.

Like Purton, the Mauritian heads to Sha Tin buoyed by a mid-week quartet at Happy Valley.

“It’s great to build your confidence going towards the weekend, towards the big day – I’m very happy about that and I’m just looking forward for the weekend now,” Teetan said.

With 11 minor placings from his past 24 rides, Lyle Hewitson hopes his persistence will soon be rewarded as he prepares to partner Durham Star for South African compatriot Douglas Whyte in the Class 4 Sun Chui Handicap (1400m).

“He’s a horse that’s obviously been in great form and taking his racing really well,” Hewitson said. “We have been gifted the 11-draw for the third time in a row, but he’s running well and hopefully he can nullify the draw.

“No matter what the form of the horse is like, the stable is in such form and a trainer that is training with a lot of confidence, you get on a horse and expect them to run well. It definitely gives you, as a rider, a lot of confidence and allows you to ride more freely and trust that they are going to perform their best.”

Sunday’s (27 February) 10-race fixture at Sha Tin kicks off at 1pm with the Class 5 Wo Che Handicap (2000m).