Tony Cruz says California Spangle is more likely to target Group One glory over six furlongs than a mile later this year, but the Celebration Cup favourite’s connections will reserve judgment until after their resuming star contests the season’s first Group race at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Win or lose, California Spangle will come to a fork in the road after the Group Three Celebration Cup (1,400m).
Following his first-up run, trainer Cruz, jockey Zac Purton and owner Howard Liang Yum-shing will decide if last term’s Classic Cup (1,800m) winner targets 1,200m or 1,600m events on the way to December’s Hong Kong International Races.
The programme means California Spangle’s second-up assignment is odds on to be a choice between the Group Two Sha Tin Trophy (1,600m) on October 16 or the Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m) one week later.
Cruz, who prepared Buddies to post an upset victory in last season’s Celebration Cup – he led all the way under Matthew Chadwick as the second-highest priced participant – is leaning towards setting California Spangle for the Premier Bowl.
“He’s been in Conghua, I’m so glad to see him. I’m really thrilled about him coming back,” said Cruz of California Spangle, whose sire Starspangledbanner and paternal grandsire Choisir won the same Group One sprint at Royal Ascot seven years apart but whose maternal grandsire High Chaparral won two Breeders’ Cup Turfs and two European derbies at 2,400m.
“He’s put on a lot of weight. He’s quite a big-sized horse. He showed on his first two starts he’s got a lot of speed in him,” Cruz added of the four-year-old, who holds the 1,000m and 1,200m Sha Tin class records in Griffin grade.
“We can’t decide if he’s a 1,200m horse or a 1,600m horse. To me, he’s more like a sprinter than a miler. I think it’s more appropriate we go shorter, not longer, but we’ll find out this Sunday.”
Trainers declared just six gallopers for Sunday’s Celebration Cup, the smallest field since the contest’s elevation to full Group Three status six years ago.
Cruz, who has saddled a joint championship-leading four winners this term, is set to take eight runners to Sha Tin on Sunday, including Ima Single Man and You’remyeverything in the Class Two Cheung Hong Handicap (1,200m).
Silvestre de Sousa replaces Purton aboard Ima Single Man, while Angus Chung Yik-lai’s 10-pound claim is a factor in him taking over from Vincent Ho Chak-yiu on You’remyeverything, who Ho rode to consecutive Class Three triumphs at Happy Valley in June.
Ima Single Man and You’remyeverything experienced contrasting fortunes in their recent trials, but Cruz is confident of strong showings from both of them, particularly black-type winner Ima Single Man.
“I believe in Ima Single Man. I believe 1,200m is his distance,” Cruz said of the five-year-old gelding, who held on to claim Western Australia’s premier juvenile event, the Group Two Karrakatta Plate (1,200m), on what was only his second start.
You’remyeverything was more than seven lengths off Celebration Cup contender Healthy Happy in his one and only preparatory appearance, but Cruz is not concerned about the margin of his trial defeat.
“Horses come on after trials. They don’t look good in trials, but they improve after trials, so I’m not worried about it. To me, I’m happy with his trial.”