Chadwick's woes a distant Memory
Another brilliant chapter filled the pages of the Matthew Chadwick story as he shrugged off criticism of his riding of California Memory to take the HK$20 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup and became the first locally produced jockey since the winner's trainer, Tony Cruz, to win an international event.
Chadwick has taken his share of stick over defeats on the grey, but parked him closer yesterday from a good barrier draw in a very slowly run affair that took on a new look when the anticipated front-runners Durban Thunder and Ransom Note were nowhere to be seen.
The winner's stablemate, Pure Champion, was found in front and Chadwick had California Memory box-seated to the turn and needing only a clear passage as the leaders sprinted home from the 400m in under 22 seconds, playing to the grey's strength.
'The key is this horse's acceleration,' said Cruz. 'He is a better and stronger horse in every way this season and I am lucky to train him. Whether the pace is fast or slow, he can really accelerate at the end of his races.'
Traffic problems had been an issue in the Jockey Club Cup last start when California Memory got back from a low draw, but Cruz said he wanted to make better use of the one gate this time.
'Things didn't work out last time but I gave Matthew a pep talk and we had a game plan to be closer and it worked out nicely,' Cruz said.
Chadwick said he never thought he would lose the race after California Memory travelled so easily in the run to the home turn.
'I know I haven't been around long but he is the best horse that I've ever ridden,' said the former star apprentice.
For owner Howard Liang Yum-shing, the win stood as a memorial to his father, Dr Thomas Liang Ting-sen, who had been a prominent and enthusiastic owner over many years until he passed away in 2010, and who had bought California Memory as a Derby hopeful.
'It is really joy for the family to continue my father's legacy in the horse racing that he loved so much,' said Liang.
After having trouble acclimatising and showing form, the grey had undergone a second gelding operation in 2010 to tidy up a testicle oddly left behind by his first operation in France, which must have been causing him discomfort as his form improved sharply, taking him to a Hong Kong Gold Cup win earlier this year.
'Now we are expecting bigger things from him - we may look overseas, maybe Dubai or Singapore or England, but his first targets will be the big races domestically like the Gold Cup again and the QE II Cup,' Cruz said.
Last year's runner-up to Snow Fairy, Irian (Darren Beadman) rattled off a 21.56 seconds final sprint to rush home from last for second again, and his performance left Horse of the Year Ambitious Dragon (Douglas Whyte) with little excuse in fourth. 'Everyone will say that the slow pace beat him but it isn't true,' Whyte said.
'Look at Irian, he has come from behind me.
'I think it was the gut-buster run he had last time when he was stuck out wide.
'Truly, when I let him down today, he raced up to them that quickly I thought he would win by lengths but with 100m to go he just felt flat and couldn't keep going.'
The supposed match-up with the world's joint second highest-rated galloper, France's Cirrus Des Aigles, also fizzed, with the five-year-old failing to put his best foot forward and finishing midfield.
California Memory's final 400m sectional, in seconds, on his way to victory in the Cup