California Memory in good shape for international trials
Trainer is pleased Hong Kong Cup winner heads to international trials in good shape
Although buoyed by California Memory's sprightly finishing sprint last start, trainer Tony Cruz said the fact his star pulled up sound - having seemingly shrugged off his worrisome joint soreness - is of far more importance leading into Sunday's Jockey Club Cup at Sha Tin.
California Memory's well-publicised leg issues have limited his performances since a career-best victory in last year's Hong Kong Cup, but the grey's run-on fifth when resuming in the Sha Tin Trophy - where he produced the fastest final 400m sectional of the race - dispelled some doubts.
"He went great, but he also came through the run without any worries with his joints. That's the main concern with him and he is in good shape on that front," Cruz said. "I didn't expect him to win the race like he had the year before. This time around he was carrying a lot of weight and he has always been better over 2,000m than a mile."
California Memory comes back to set weights and penalties conditions on Sunday, but will still lump the top weight of 128 pounds, along with the only other Group One winner, Liberator. They will give the rest of the field five pounds.
In California Memory's favour is the absence of nemesis Ambitious Dragon, who will contest the Jockey Club Mile.
"I think he is a winning chance, but the weight still concerns me. He is such a small horse that those sorts of weights can slow him down," Cruz said. "At least the competition isn't as strong, but giving weight to a few of these horses will be difficult."
Although Ambitious Dragon produced the standout performance of the season in the Sha Tin Trophy when out-sprinting his rivals with a stunning turn of foot, California Memory's final sectionals were even better.
Matthew Chadwick took California Memory straight to the rear of the field, but the diminutive six-year-old unwound with a deceptively fast last 400m of 22.66s, finishing 2½ lengths behind Ambitious Dragon.
"As horses get older they lose some of that early speed, but he can still get going and sprint home late," Cruz said.
"He was flying at the end of that race. Hopefully, we will have him right to defend his crown on international day."
Meanwhile, Singaporean sprinter Super Easy will complete a crucial piece of work ahead of the Jockey Club Sprint this morning. The five-year-old hasn't raced clockwise since competing as a juvenile in New Zealand and will work that way under raceday jockey Olivier Doleuze this morning.