California Memory (grey) inching ahead in the Jockey Club CupPICTURE: HKJC
California warms up for repeat HK Cup success
Report: Hong Kong, Sunday
Sha Tin: Longines Jockey Club Cup (Group 2) 1m2f, turf, 3yo+
CALIFORNIA MEMORY (Tony Cruz/Matt Chadwick) enhanced his prospects of back-to-back victories in Hong Kong's richest race next month thanks to a telling late dash in the Longines Jockey Club Club on Sunday.
The principal local trial for the Longines Hong Kong Cup was run a good deal quicker than most might have anticipated.
The tempo suited the only international Group 1 winner in the field, California Memory, who gave 5lbs to those around him in the tight finish having been waited with at the tail of the field before the swing for home.
Just half a length separated the first four past the post with a short-head between the brilliant little grey from a trio of John Moore-trained runners headed by Irian.
Zaidan, third home, and 9-4 favourite Packing Whiz, fourth, held every chance as they briefly disputed the lead around the furlong marker.
"They went a bit hard up front which suited us but we were just running our own race and he finished the race off well enough to win," said the victorious jockey Chadwick.
"He's definitely improved for his last run and hopefully he'll pull up sound. We'll be looking for the big one in December. He's a small horse, but he's got the biggest heart."
California Memory has had a history of intermittent soundness problems, but trainer Cruz indicated that the worrying pattern has subsided in recent times.
"When he pulled up after his last run he was sound - he wasn't sore even," he said.
Tony Cruz: confident of big runPICTURE: HKJC
"I was confident he was coming here with a great chance today. So long as he pulls up sound again tomorrow we're in for a serious race again on the big day."
The form out of this particular trial is historically very strong as a pointer to the Longines Hong Kong Cup, for which the likely fields will be announced in midweek by the HKJC.
California Memory ran fourth in this contest a year ago despite striking significant traffic in the straight and later atoned in December when it mattered more.
Irian, winner here in 2010, was touched off by Snow Fairy in that year's Cup. In 2011, the German import also ran second in this race and filled an identical role in the main event, so perhaps that augurs well for his chances again in three weeks.
Runner-up in the SIA Cup in Singapore in May over the same distance, Zaidan performed very creditably and seems a reasonable each-way candidate again next time on this latest showing.
Packing Whiz, however, appeared to peak on his run trying 1m2f for the first time and, looking ahead to the big meeting, it would not surprise if he were dropped back in distance to the Mile.
Stable companion Dominant, with Neil Callan flown in for the ride, was scratched earlier in the day owing to lameness, as had been predicted in some quarters of the local media on Sunday morning.