Four years after California Memory announced himself as a star with an upset win in the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup, the now nine-year-old's career comes full circle and the popular galloper heads into the same race tomorrow as an outsider with his retirement rapidly approaching.
California Memory has won three more Group Ones and taken his prize-money tally to more than HK$50 million since storming home from last to win at 30-1 in 2011.
Despite the grey's advancing years and famously aching joints, trainer Tony Cruz has not given up hope of producing something similar tomorrow at Sha Tin.
"I think he'll be right there and I am expecting him to be in the top three. He is looking well and last start he was coming off a very long break," Cruz said of the gelding's closing seventh in the Centenary Vase.
"I thought that run was OK, too - 1,800m is on the short side for him, he was hitting the line well and he was only beaten by a length and a half."
California Memory, with regular jockey Matthew Chadwick back aboard, is one of three Cruz-prepared runners entered in the HK$10 million Group One, with Blazing Speed and Helene Super Star also among the trainer's team as he eyes his seventh win in the mid-season feature.
He won two as a jockey, on champion Co-Tack in 1983 and Makarpura Star in 1995, before two years later returning to the winner's circle as a trainer with Deauville in 1997. He has since added to these with back-to-back wins with Bullish Luck (2004) and Perfect Partner (2005) before California Memory's shock success.
Cruz expects improvement on the last-start efforts of Blazing Speed and Helene Super Star as they step up in distance.
Umberto Rispoli replaces the suspended Neil Callan on Blazing Speed after the two-time Group One winner was fourth behind Able Friend in last month's Stewards' Cup.
"He needs more ground than a mile now that he is getting a little older, and 2,000m is right up his alley," Cruz said. "I think at his best he could win this race, and his work has been very good leading into this."
Helene Super Star was fourth in the Centenary Vase with a light weight and is another looking for farther, according to Cruz.
"We have booked Dougie Whyte to ride him and we are hoping to aim the horse at the staying races later in the season," he said.