California hot Choice for TT riches
California Choice is the only banker choice Triple Trio punters should make in the final leg of Sha Tin's HK$4 million exotic - and the Tony Cruz-trained speed machine can be relied upon to maintain his unbeaten record as topweight on Sunday.
Matthew Chadwick shaves two pounds off the hefty 133 pounds impost for his local rider's allowance, and has already driven the powerful sprinter to two wins down the 1,000m straight.
The hat-trick looms imminently, despite the handicappers penalising California Choice some 28 points for his two impressive wins, and so long as Chadwick keeps the Redoute's Choice colt within touch of the early leaders coming to the 300m mark, the race will be his for the taking.
Much has been made of the horse's apparent roaring condition by Cruz, but in restricting him to the straight course over the minimum trip, he seems to have sidestepped that issue for now and there has been no evidence of any loss of aerobic performance at the end of his two runs.
The three-year-old was to make his third start on January 16, but was scratched on the morning of the race after presenting with mucopus after trackwork.
With a month since then to clear his pipes, Cruz is now ready to open the throttle again and get the colt another win.
Last-start winner Dane Patrol has drawn to the outside in 11, and apprentice Vincent Ho Chak-yiu is sure to use his outer-rail advantage and weight claim to set the early tempo and make the Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained four-year-old hard to catch.
Douglas Whyte's mount, Xi Ying Men, is likely to take a prominent position behind the leaders with the 119 pounds on his back from gate six, but California Choice walloped him by five lengths when the pair last met carrying almost equal weights, and whether the 13-pound swing in the handicap is enough to reverse the result is doubtful.
Three horses are sporting blinkers for the first time in this race and that may change not only the tactics but also the end trio result, and Peter Ho Leung's Deposer, David Hall's Maelstrom and Tony Millard's King Of The Day are all worth a second glance.
The middle pin looks a good opportunity for Viva Freedom to strike his first win after racing without luck at his latest effort over a shorter journey.
Barrier three dealt Viva Freedom few favours last time over 1,400m and Alex Lai Hoi-wing struggled to find a way to get his mount clear galloping room early in the straight.
The four-year-old has drawn gate three again and Ho has called on the services of Howard Cheng Yue-tin to get the job done over the mile for the first time.
King Of Fish II makes appeal further down in the weights after improving with the blinkers on for the first time last start with Brett Prebble, when third behind I Smell Money and Romancing Tamar over 1,400m.
Romancing Tamar has fronted up to battle again but, from gate 11 with new jockey Piere Strydom on board for the first time, it is anyone's guess what tactics the connections will use for this run.
Australian Craig Williams is visiting for the Group One Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup ride on Special Days for trainer John Size, but can get off to a good start by figuring on Gold Rush from barrier five.
Surrounded is a better horse than what he has shown, and perhaps John Moore's move to a cross-over nose band will help Darren Beadman get the four-year-old to settle from gate two.
Exciting debutant Costa Del Sol makes great appeal in a tricky first leg but, with proven performers and in-form runners such as The Prince and Sky Mascot in the field, the decision to make the first starter a banker is a precarious one.