Trainer Tony Cruz is backing California Spangle to stay the Hong Kong Derby trip after his impressive win in the Classic Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday.
California Spangle brushed aside stamina doubts when making all to beat Turin Redsun over the 1,800m trip and Cruz is confident that his star four-year-old will cope with another 200m in the Derby.
“Our plans all turned out good so the next step is the Derby,” Cruz said.
“We always had confidence that this horse would run the distance. His dam is by High Chaparral and we all know he’s a stayer that horse – he won the Irish Derby.
“Knowing he’s got that pedigree in him, I’m sure he will get the distance. I believe he waits in front and that he will stay the distance.”
California Spangle’s Derby rivals will know he’ll be leading early but while they will know what tactics are going to be employed, Cruz believes his star will be tough to pass as he idles late on.
“The plan from day one was that this horse – even though he’s a real sprinter – was to wait for the straight, wait for the opposition to come and then you make a move. He was under control for the whole race,” Cruz said.
Cruz is likely to have a multipronged attack on the Derby, with Ima Single Man also a chance to head that way after finishing seventh in the Classic Cup and Champion Dragon holding off a number of fast finishers to land Sunday’s Class Three Mei Tin Handicap (1,800m) and stake his claim for a spot in the race.
Champion Dragon was only contesting this race as Cruz thought his rating would not be high enough to get a run in the Classic Cup.
Although that judgment was proved wrong as his mark of 72 would have been sufficient to get a run in the big race, Cruz was happy with the victory.
“We thought we probably wouldn’t get a start in the Hong Kong Classic Cup, so we decided to run in this race because we thought we could win it,” Cruz said.
“We don’t know what his rating will be after this race. He was 72 coming into today’s race, but if he gets enough points he might get in the Derby – that’s what we’re hoping for. We’d love to run him in the Derby.”
Purton ticks off another big race as Spangle sparkles in Classic Cup
Champion Dragon benefited from a glorious front-running ride by Karis Teetan, who has been in great form at the last two meetings, and got a good start from stall seven to be able to tack across the rail.
Turning into the home straight, there appeared to be plenty of runners in with a chance but Champion Dragon showed plenty of guts to hold them all off to win by a short-head, with just two lengths covering the first 10 home.
The British import had been slightly disappointing in his past two starts but they had been at Happy Valley and over a mile on dirt and he seemed to benefit from a return to the Sha Tin turf, where he put in two good runs to start his Hong Kong career.
Thought good enough to run in the Group One Irish 2,000 Guineas when trained in England by Hugo Palmer, Champion Dragon looks the type to continue to improve and could give Cruz another nice string to his bow if he gets into the Derby.