Horses cannot talk but California Spangle used his actions in dominating Sunday’s Group Two Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1,600m) to call out Golden Sixty for a must-see November 20 rematch between two of the heavyweights of Hong Kong racing.
California Spangle added Group Two winner to his impressive resume by leading all the way under Zac Purton, crossing the line one and a half lengths ahead of Tourbillon Diamond, who went one better than his third-place result in last year’s race.
The first four-year-old to win a Sha Tin Trophy since Gold-Fun in 2013, California Spangle clocked an almost identical time to Golden Sixty’s figure when he claimed its 2020 edition aged five – the difference was four one-hundredths of a second.
What California Spangle’s trainer, Tony Cruz, saw with his eyes on the track and heard with his ears during his post-race debrief with Purton was more than enough for him to press on preparing his stable star as a miler rather than a sprinter.
“I think we’re going to stick the mile,” said Cruz, confirming his intention to run California Spangle in the BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile, the November 20 race in which most observers expect Golden Sixty to reappear seeking his third consecutive win in the Group Two contest.
“Zac came back, he says ‘the horse is a much better horse now than he was last season’. This time, he’s a much more professional horse. He’s waiting on the jockey to ask him to go, which is fantastic.”
California Spangle was the first leg of a Sha Tin double for Purton – Packing Treadmill was his other winner – and the jockey was delighted with the contender’s knockout performance, but believes he must improve again to KO the champion.
“I don’t think he could’ve had it any easier than what he did. He began very well from the outside gate and I didn’t ask him at all to go forward and get across, because I wanted to take my time and try and get him to switch off that little bit more in the mid part of his race. That worked. He really switched off well, so he had the race under his control the whole way,” Purton said.
“He’s won the race comfortably, but if he’s going to go up against Golden Sixty, he probably wants to go a little bit better than he has today.
“Golden Sixty has been our champ for a few seasons now and he is for a reason – he doesn’t lose very often, and he beat us last time we measured up against him [in the Group One FWD Champions Mile]. He’s still probably got the edge on us, but we’re improving, and we look forward to the battle.”
Cruz praised Purton for his personal contribution to California Spangle’s eighth win, five of which have occurred in tandem with the Australian rider.
“Zac rode the horse with pure confidence. This is the way to ride the horse. This is where good jockeys can improve the horse because the jockey matches the horse,” said Cruz, who thought the opposite of Luke Currie’s steer of Beauty Joy.
“As he took off on the turn, I said ‘game over, he’s beaten’. I wanted to get him some cover and just wait. You’re in a handy position already. But the minute he made the move and asked the horse to go, he just took off. He fired the gun too early,” said Cruz, who intends to set both Beauty Joy (10th) and Ka Ying Star (fourth) for the Group Three Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (1,800m) on November 6.
Cruz leads this season’s trainers’ championship on 10 winners, while Purton’s 25 successes is 15 more than the next most victorious jockey, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, who is ranked second on 10 winners.
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