California Memory in great form, Cruz insists
The grey with the stunning finishing burst, California Memory, surprised quite a few with his last-to-first win in the Hong Kong Gold Cup last time and, back at the scene of the crime, Tony Cruz is looking for a repeat performance in the QEII Cup on Sunday.
The record of Gold Cup winners going into the QEII next time has been poor, with the last to win both races being the Brian Kan Ping-chee-trained Industrialist in 2000, although things have improved in three of the last four years, with the Gold Cup winner placing three times, and Collection had excuses last year when sixth as favourite.
Few Gold Cup winners, however, have put up a performance like California Memory's effort, posting the win of the season and even surpassing the Hong Kong Cup win by Snow Fairy, running faster overall and faster sectional times with that explosive run down the Sha Tin straight.
California Memory has not raced for two months since that eye-popping win, but Cruz (pictured) assured fans the grey is in great form for Sunday's race, despite that break.
'We had the option of running him in the Group Two mile race, the Chairman's Trophy, but I really didn't think it was an appropriate race with the set weights and allowances - a small horse like him having to run with a big weight and give away weight - so we bypassed that and set this as our goal,' Cruz said.
'But I am very happy with him. Instead of that race, he's had two good barrier trials during that time and I feel that has done him the same amount of good as a mile race would have done. He's fit enough. He'll be out the back again and running home strongly.'
For jockey Matthew Chadwick it's a chance to open his international Group One account after landing his first Group One in the Gold Cup.
Chadwick's only previous ride at this international level was on Beauty Flash, when third in the Champions Mile last year.
'It's great to be riding in these sorts of races but to be on a chance is even better,' Chadwick. 'If the boss says he's going well then that's enough for me.'