Cruz plots a way to slay the Dragon
Tony Cruz believes barrier one and a pre-race pep talk for jockey Matthew Chadwick can turn California Memory into a 'dragon slayer' in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup (2,000m).
Ambitious Dragon got the better of California Memory in the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup earlier this year and Cruz has been itching for a rematch ever since, believing his horse was unlucky in the pair's only previous meeting.
'We're in for a fight and we have a real shot at it,' he said. 'Last time in the QE II we lost a few lengths at the start and we got too far back. Ambitious Dragon only beat us by three-quarters of a length.'
Cruz is adamant gate one is the best place from which to spring an upset, despite the reservations of Chadwick, who would have preferred a wider draw.
'What is he worried about? You can use the gate to your advantage,' Cruz said. 'You make the best of it. Compare it to last year in the QE II where he lost too much ground from a wide draw and we couldn't catch him [Ambitious Dragon].'
Chadwick has ridden the horse for luck in two starts this preparation, with contrasting results. California Memory produced a stunning last-to-first burst to win the Sha Tin Trophy first-up, but struck traffic when trying to weave a passage from the rear in the Jockey Club Cup, where he was beaten into fourth as favourite.
Cruz said the grey gelding didn't have to be ridden cold and that he would like to see Chadwick handier tomorrow.
'He doesn't have to be coming from last, he could even be midfield,' Cruz said. 'As long as he is relaxed, I won't be worried about it.'
Cruz also has Pure Champion (Gerald Mosse) in the race and the four-year-old seems to have turned the corner after early problems acclimatising in Hong Kong. Pure Champion was second in the Jockey Club Cup and has drawn ideally in three.
'I believe he has a chance to finish top three,' Cruz said. 'When he first came he had a lot of problems with mucous and his feet. But he seems to have grown out of those issues. He is a stronger, healthier horse this year.'
Beauty Flash (Mosse) is aiming for back-to-back Hong Kong Mile wins, but will have to again overcome a wide barrier (10). 'We won from barrier 14 last year and I think we should race handy again,' said Cruz, who has given the six-year-old an identical preparation to 2010.
The gelding heads into the Group One fourth-up, with form that reads similar to 12 months ago.
'I think we've timed it just right and his fitness should be spot on,' Cruz said. 'He needs a few races to get him right.'