Memory 'will be ready this time'
Twelve months ago Tony Cruz came to the Lion City expecting to win the Singapore Airlines International Cup with California Memory and things could not have gone more wrong, but the grey turns up with less pressure today after plenty of water has flowed under his bridge.
With a Hong Kong Gold Cup win and strong QE II Cup second as his lead-in in 2011, California Memory was the form horse for Singapore's big event and it all went awry - forced into the unfamiliar role of leader from a wide draw, he failed to finish off his race as a fading eighth and he emerged with a fractured splint bone.
It was a dismal end for an expected winner, but Cruz goes into the same event somewhat under the radar this time after injuries and travel issues have dulled California Memory's form line.
The trainer is convinced that travel has been the least of his worries in Singapore.
'I think this is the best that California Memory has travelled. This is the best condition he ever arrived for one of these big races,' Cruz said.
'When he went to Dubai, he lost a whole lot of weight on the flight and he wasn't himself, and then he was sore after the race as well. But he must be getting more used to the travel because, this time, California Memory lost only four pounds in body weight - that's nothing.'
The bigger story of California Memory lately, though, has been all about his joints.
When the grey ran into second place in the final 150m in the Gold Cup then was headed off again by Xtension near home, the alarm bells rang for jockey Matthew Chadwick as California Memory had never been passed before at that stage of a race except for when he led in his early days or in that disastrous race at Kranji last year.
'That was the start of his problems,' Cruz confirmed. 'He didn't go to the line like we are used to seeing, even though he still ran third, and the next day he was very sore.'
Patched up, he won a barrier trial and convinced connections to take him to Dubai but, after travelling over poorly, the joint issues flared up again and it was the worst run of his career finishing 12th to Cityscape.
'But when he went back home and ran much better in the QE II, my vet Ben Mason examined him twice the day afterwards and he said he pulled up really well,' Cruz explained. 'He's had his joints medicated again after that - it's a constant maintenance with this kind of problem, like the maintenance on a car - but he isn't sore at the moment and is very happy. He is all sorted out, Felix Coetzee is going to suit him and I am confident he'll run a big race.'
At any time in Singapore, the prospect of rain on raceday is a real one, and Cruz has his eye on the sky hoping for more of the hot sunny weather of the last two days, despite his confidence that California Memory would handle some give underfoot.
'I believe he would handle yielding ground or whatever he gets tomorrow, but he certainly can run very fast finishing sectionals on good tracks, so I would prefer that he gets the conditions where we know,' Cruz said.
Local galloper Always Certain provided the only news for the race yesterday, scratched with suspensory ligament injury in his left foreleg, but his withdrawal won't help anyone with the barrier draw as he had drawn the outside of the field.