Trialled and tested: So far, so good with California Memory
Trainer Tony Cruz confirmed California Memory would take his place in the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup next Sunday after been given a rigorous test in a Sha Tin all-weather track trial yesterday and pulling up without the joint soreness which has plagued him at his last two starts.
California Memory put in a career-worst effort in the Dubai Duty Free at Meydan on March 31, failing to fire a shot when 12th, beaten 13 lengths by Cityscape.
Before that the six-year-old was third in the Citibank Gold Cup, but trainer and jockey Matthew Chadwick suspected there were underlying issues to what they judged a flat performance, and they raised concerns again post-race at Meydan.
On both occasions, California Memory was found to be sore the next day, the first time in his back and in the right-hind leg in Dubai.
After spending two weeks in quarantine after returning from overseas with only light workouts, Chadwick fully tested the diminutive galloper in a 1,200m dirt trial.
After jumping on terms, Chadwick sat three deep on the speed, on a horse that usually races near the tail of the field. He scrubbed his mount all the way up the straight to ensure he finished first, crossing the line a half-a-length in front of Richard Gibson's 62-rated Towering Storm.
The way the winner was pushed and the slow time of 1.12.83 was somewhat of a worry, but the main focus was on regaining match fitness and fully testing the grey's soundness.
The report from Cruz (pictured) later in the day was 'so far, so good' and California Memory is set to take his place in the QE II, a race he finished runner-up in last year, and where he will be joined by stablemate Pure Champion, after he was given a similar test in the next trial.
Again, Chadwick was aboard and rode aggressively, travelling three wide around the turn and chasing the five-year-old to the line to beat the fast-closing Happy Tumbler (Brett Prebble) by a neck.
The time of 1.11.56 on a sticky surface compared favourably with California Memory's but was a tick slower than the most impressive trial list of the three 1,200m jump-outs; Caspar Fownes' Dance For Gold.
After an eye-catching win in January on debut, where Maxime Guyon weaved a near-impossible passage late after spotting the leaders a huge margin in a 1,000m straight race, Dance For Gold was completely uncompetitive in his next trial.
The three-year-old was found to be sore and was immediately given two weeks off by Fownes, who has now trialled son of speed sire Not A Single Doubt twice since.
Yesterday's tidy effort, where he was asked to sit just off the pace by Prebble and then moved smoothly to the line in a time of 1.11.45, showed he will be ready for business when next produced on race day.