Zac Purton has been replaced aboard Group One star California Spangle, with trainer Tony Cruz opting to lock in Hugh Bowman rather than wait for the reigning champion jockey.
Purton partnered California Spangle in all eight of his starts last season, with their four victories for the campaign including success in the Group One Hong Kong Mile.
Bowman will take the reins for California Spangle’s first-up assignment in next month’s Group Two Sha Tin Trophy (1,600m) as the five-year-old plots a course towards his Mile defence.
“Zac’s picking and choosing his rides. He’s wanting to see how Beauty Eternal goes first before he decides, but we’ve got to confirm a jockey. We want someone who’ll stay with the horse,” Cruz said about the switch.
Somewhat ironically, Purton sided with California Spangle over Lucky Sweynesse for March’s Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) and was forced to watch on as James McDonald tasted elite-level success with Manfred Man Ka-leung’s speedster.
California Spangle was seen at the trials for the first time this season on Friday, coasting through under Angus Chung Yik-lai in the absence of Bowman, who jetted down to Melbourne for Saturday’s Group One Underwood Stakes (1,800m) at Caulfield.
While Bowman could only manage eighth aboard Chris Waller’s Lindermann in the main event, he did taste success with his only ride on the undercard, taking out the second race aboard First Immortal.
After jetting back to Hong Kong overnight, Bowman went winless for the first time this season at Sha Tin on Sunday, while Purton saluted aboard Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s Green N White to close the gap in the jockeys’ premiership to three.
Bowman will become the fourth jockey to ride the 129-rated California Spangle, with Neil Callan and Matthew Chadwick also tasting success aboard the galloper early in his career.
Avdulla sent for scans
Brenton Avdulla is expected to be available for Wednesday night’s Happy Valley meeting after a mishap in the barriers before the Class Three HKU Business School and Faculty of Engineering Handicap (1,000m).
After taking a knock while California Deeply played up in the stalls, Avdulla partnered his mount into seventh before being stood down and sent for scans on his head, neck and right shoulder.
It is hoped the 32-year-old has escaped serious injury and a decision about whether he is fit to ride in Tuesday morning’s barrier trials will be made on Monday.
Avdulla forfeited his final two rides, with Red Hare King finishing eighth under Alexis Badel and Secret Vision running fifth with Vincent Ho Chak-yiu aboard.
Shum not Super surprised
The victory of $17.35 shot Super Legends in Sunday’s opener at Sha Tin might have caught most punters off guard, but it didn’t surprise trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing, who went into the Class Four HKU Libraries Handicap (1,200m) feeling confident.
The first Hong Kong runner for sire Brave Smash – a two-time Group One-winning sprinter in Australia after beginning his career in Japan – Super Legends travelled near the back of the field from gate eight before reeling off a final 400m of 22.85 and grabbing Kaholo Angel on the line.
“I’m not surprised, he trialled well and he had a good draw. It was a very good run,” Shum said.
While Bowman was aboard for all five of Super Legends’ pre-debut trials, the three-year-old’s 124-pound impost meant it was Vincent Ho Chak-yiu in the saddle.
Ho went onto complete a double a few races later, taking out the Class Four University Hall Handicap (1,200m) aboard Francis Lui Kin-wai’s Always Fluke.
Shum also provided an update on Romantic Warrior’s condition following his turf gallop at Werribee on Saturday.
While Romantic Warrior has had trouble adjusting to his Australian feed, Shum confirmed the three-time Group One winner is improving.
“His gallop was OK. He’s not 100 per cent yet, but he’s getting better and better. I’m not too worried. He’s not eating as well as before, but he’s not dropping weight. That’s the good news. He was 1,157 pounds this afternoon – exactly the same weight as he was for his last start [in May’s Group One Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m)],” Shum said.
“He’ll go to Flemington [for a gallop] on October 1, and James McDonald will try to go and ride him.”
McDonald will partner Romantic Warrior in the Group One Turnbull Stakes (2,000m) at Flemington on October 7, while the Group One Cox Plate (2,040m) at Moonee Valley on October 28 is the ultimate goal.