Cruz and Moore set to clash for Singapore glory
Hong Kong's hopes of claiming an international Group One victory on Singaporean soil tonight may rest with Singapore Airlines International Cup (2,000m) entries California Memory and Irian - both firming strongly since overseas fixed-odds markets opened in the week.
With 2009 KrisFlyer International Sprint (1,200m) winner Sacred Kingdom a conservative 'one and a half lengths slower than his peak', according to trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai, and Green Birdie winless for Caspar Fownes since he saluted at Kranji last year, the middle-distance improvers look the most likely to raise the Bauhinia flag.
The Tony Cruz-trained California Memory has been backed from an opening quote of $8 down to $6, and John Moore's Irian has remained solid as a $10 chance with overseas operators, who have nominated the perennial favourite Presvis as $4.50 elect in his third trip to Singapore for the SAI Cup.
The battle for the Singapore Cup will have no bearing on the domestic trainers' premiership, but Cruz and Moore go head-to-head in an exciting match-up on foreign soil - with Moore hinting he will change his tactics with Irian, and Cruz happy to let his horse do the talking.
Moore stated he will instruct Darren Beadman to make the most of his barrier-five draw by taking a more forward position in, what appears on paper at least, a race void of any serious pace influences.
Moore was in awe of California Memory's finishing bursts in his Gold Cup win and subsequent Queen Elizabeth II Cup placing, and will be hoping Irian can stretch the field out and give the backmarkers, including favourite Presvis, an impossible task in the straight.
Cruz will change nothing, and from barrier 13, will instruct jockey Matthew Chadwick to ride him as he has done at his most recent runs over 2,000 metres, which have been the best of his career. Punters can expect to see Chadwick drop to the rear from his outside gate, and 'Camp Cruz' will be counting on California Memory's trademark finishing sectional to claim the lion's share of the S$3 million (HK$18.8) prize.
Meanwhile, the KrisFlyer Sprint market is emphatic in declaring local champion Rocket Man the horse to beat, with little better than $1.50 available about with any overseas betting agency. That figure will seem luxurious for Singapore punters betting into the local tote, with the crowd favourite likely to start only marginally better than the minimum win odds of S$5.30 for a S$5 bet.
Tears will flow freely if he wins, and the tissues will be in short supply if he is pipped again, with both trainer Patrick Shaw and jockey Felix Coetzee confident Rocket Man is in the best shape of his career.
Fownes is hopeful Green Birdie remains capable of an upset, and Yiu is rolling the dice for one more away win for his former world champion Sacred Kingdom, but both are nominating Rocket Man as the horse to beat, and the most likely to challenge Australian wonder mare Black Caviar at the top of the sprinting ranks in seasons to come.
California Memory has drawn a wide gate at Kranji tonight but his running style means he gets back in his races and finishes fast'