Hopes California Memory will keep HK on the map
California Memory has been a revelation since trainer Tony Cruz stepped the grey up to 2,000 metres - and his barnstorming come-from-behind win in the Hong Kong Gold Cup at Sha Tin in February announced to the world he was among the top echelon of gallopers.
It was the sort of win that could set a racehorse up for a future career as a stallion. Luckily, Cruz had already convinced owner Howard Liang Yum-shing to geld his French import before he hit the big time.
'When California Memory arrived in Hong Kong in late 2009 we immediately had him castrated to try to get him to concentrate on his racing in time for the Derby,' Cruz said.
'We should have asked for a discount from our vet because he only had one testicle to take out. When our man got in there to do the operation, we discovered someone else had already tried to geld him, but had apparently left him a rig.'
That the now fully gelded California Memory will not pass on his bloodline to the next generation is of little consequence, but if the fast-finishing grey can claim races like tomorrow's Group One Singapore Airlines International Cup (2,000 metres) at Kranji and continues to do so into the future, there might have been some red faces and embarrassed coughing had he hit the breeding barns in his prior state.
All that aside, California Memory still has the potential to be a flag-bearer for Hong Kong's middle-distance credentials on the world stage - a fact enthusiastically pointed out by rival trainer John Moore, who has Irian in the SAI Cup.
'We're very lucky to have a horse like California Memory carrying the Hong Kong flag for our stayers, and if he continues to close off his races like he has recently, there is no doubt Tony is going to be keen to travel him all over the world.
'That will keep Hong Kong on the map, while the older brigade are starting to fade away with the likes of Viva Pataca and Sacred Kingdom getting older. We've got some new boys on the block in Ambitious Dragon and California Memory, which is great for Hong Kong.'
Cruz expects the same, and is hoping the SAI Cup can be the launching pad for future international Group One victories.
'He's a very happy horse and I'm quite confident he'll run well. The owner's whole family has come down to Singapore and we're really hoping he can win,' Cruz said.
'We didn't have to do much with him since he's arrived, because he is a pretty lightly framed horse.'
The trip was uneventful, but the tale of the tape had Cruz worried. 'He travelled quietly, but he lost a lot of weight, close to 30 pounds [13.6kg] during the trip, but he's already put back on around 25 pounds,' he said.