California Choice to take centre stage
Tony Cruz opted against off-season throat surgery for up-and-comer California Choice and is cautiously optimistic the horse will resume at his best in the Sha Tin Sprint Trophy (1,000m).
California Choice has won four of his six starts and is one of two Cruz sprinters, along with Blaze King, entered in the star-studded Group Three.
Corrective surgery was considered for California Choice after he was diagnosed as a 'roarer'. Cruz said connections decided against a risky operation because the condition hadn't yet stopped the imposing three-year-old from performing at his best.
'We thought to do the surgery would be worse that not doing it,' Cruz said. 'Right now he is still performing, we should just leave it as it is.
'I'm confident with both my horses going into the race. They're in very good condition - and they've both trialled very good.'
Mark du Plessis gets his first ride on California Choice after Jeff Lloyd gave the ride up to partner John Moore's runner Let Me Fight.
Cruz's pair face a red-hot field, including four-time sprinter of the year Sacred Kingdom, who will be out to re-write history in the HK$2.4 million event and will be ridden for the first time by Zac Purton.
The Australian has forgone the ride on Little Bridge to partner the now eight-year-old, who is already the only horse to win this race twice (2007 and 2010).
The 31-start veteran hasn't raced since a sixth in Singapore in May and comes in without a trial. Despite some seemingly impressive morning gallops, Purton is taking a wait and see approach to the gelding.
'I'm just erring on the side of caution a little bit,' Purton said. 'He has been running good times in the morning and he feels pretty good, but when I press the go button on raceday, we'll see how he handles that.'
'He is a little bit older now, and when they're old they can still work pretty well.'
Sacred Kingdom will go back in a race which should be run at breakneck speed, and when he does press 'go', Purton expects Tony Millard's mare Sweet Sanette (Brett Doyle) as the one he'll have to catch.
'I think she'll be there for a long way and I think Entrapment is a very good horse, they're the two hardest to beat in this race,' he said.