California Spangle has earned a tilt at the HK$24 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) next month after repelling a crack field in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) to defy questions over his stamina with a superb performance at Sha Tin on Sunday (27 February).
Leading virtually all the way under a masterful front-running ride from Zac Purton, the son of champion sprinter Starspangledbanner plumbed the depths of his reserves to win the second leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, prevailing from Turin Redsun and Money Catcher, while previously unbeaten Romantic Warrior finished fourth after covering ground from barrier 13.
With four Derby crowns as a jockey and two more as a trainer, Cruz attributed California Spangle’s sixth win from eight starts – spread from 1000m to 1800m – to the gelding’s exceptional quality, the staying influence of High Chaparral through the bay’s dam Pearlitas Passion and Purton’s supremely calculated ride.
“Our plans all turned out good so next step, we wait for the Derby,” said Cruz, who last savoured Derby success with Helene Mascot in 2008. We always had confidence this horse would run the distance because his dam is by High Chaparral, a stayer who won the Irish Derby. I’m sure he’s got that sort of pedigree in him and I believe he will get the distance (2000m).
“I believe he will wait in front and I believe he will run out the distance. The plan from day one was that this horse – even though he’s a real sprinter – was to wait for the straight, wait for the opposition to come and then you make a move. He was under control for the whole race.”
Asked if California Spangle was capable of Derby success at Sha Tin on 20 March, Cruz smiled and said: “It’s possible.”