Cruz unbothered by FWD Champions Mile draw ahead of Golden Sixty clash

Leo Schlink

27/04/2023 14:25

California Spangle upstages Golden Sixty in the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.
California Spangle upstages Golden Sixty in the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.

Plotting a second major upset of Golden Sixty this season, Tony Cruz is adamant California Spangle’s best hopes of securing HK$20 million G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) glory is to revert to his customary pace-setting role at Sha Tin on Sunday (30 April).

Beaten in three of four clashes with Hong Kong’s equine idol, California Spangle famously upstaged Golden Sixty in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) in December, when Zac Purton’s precise control of race tempo proved decisive.

Since then, Golden Sixty decisively overhauled California Spangle in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) after Purton attempted to employ the same tactics, only to be thwarted by Golden Sixty’s devastating closing speed.

California Spangle will start from barrier of gate eight this Sunday, with Golden Sixty on his immediate inside. Australia’s My Oberon will jump from barrier nine, with New Zealand’s Aegon to begin from gate six.

Tony Cruz has five Champions Day G1 victories.
Tony Cruz has five Champions Day G1 victories.

Cruz, who seeks his third Champions Mile crown after Bullish Luck’s successive wins in 2005/06, believes California Spangle’s alley is irrelevant.

“I think gate eight is not a big difference. From inside to outside, it’s a small field (of nine runners). I think we’re going to stick to our plans and go straight to the front,” Cruz said.

“California Spangle’s got early speed to lead this race. When we won the international race in December, we led and we won that race. We’ll try the same this time – California Spangle is going straight to the front again and the pace will suit both him and (stablemate) Beauty Joy.

“In the international race in December, we went to the front and Golden Sixty had to go around the field and lost a bit of ground and couldn’t catch California Spangle. We have the same plan but it’s a small field this time – I still think it will be a close finish.”

Richard Gibson retains faith in Wellington’s lethal capacity to again excel at FWD Champions Day as the four-time G1 winner prepares to contend for a third successive HK$20 million G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) for Alexis Badel.

“It’s very rare when a horse comes back to defend for a third time to defend his title in any division and to do it in Group 1 it’s exceptional and we’ll fight every yard for it. We know we’ve got some very good horses to beat,” Gibson said after Wellington drew barrier two.

“It’s a great achievement to come back to fight for your title a third year in a row, so it’s a great credit to the horse. It’s the time of the year that he really likes and really thrives. There’s a bit of ease in the ground to where we were a couple of months ago, so we’re really happy with that.”

Wellington lands the 2022 G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Wellington lands the 2022 G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize.

Eclipsed at his past three starts by Lucky Sweynesse, Wellington again faces his young rival in an attempt to emulate Quicken Away’s feat of three successive G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize wins in 1989, 1990 & 1991.

Gibson acknowledges the difficulty posed by Lucky Sweynesse’s presence.

“The moment I saw Lucky Sweynesse on debut – even in the trials – I was impressed. It’s great that we’ve got a new boy coming up the ranks in Hong Kong,” Gibson said.

To be ridden by Purton, Lucky Sweynesse has drawn gate six in the eight-horse field. Purton will again be on his guard in the barriers because of the sprinter’s mindset in the gates.

“He’s not naughty, he just fidgets. He won’t stand still, he moves from leg to leg and he wants to try and look around instead of facing the front of the barrier and being ready and prepared for the gates to open, he’s more focused on what’s happening around him,” Purton said.

“Sometimes, that means he steps away more slowly because he’s not quite ready. You have to worry about a lot of things – you have to worry that he turns up to the races in his best form, you have to worry that you get the right run in the race, you have to worry that track and race conditions suit, so there’s a lot to worry about but hopefully he can take care of that.”

Romantic Warrior will jump from barrier four under James McDonald in his quest for successive victories in the HK$25 million FWD QEII Cup (2000m).

British hope Dubai Honour will begin from the inside alley for Tom Marquand, while Japanese trio Geraldina (two), Prognosis (three) and Danon The Kid (seven) will attempt to notch Japan’s four win in seven years in the race.

Money Catcher (gate five) and Tourbillon Diamond (six) complete the field.

Sunday’s (30 April) 10-race FWD Champions Day fixture kicks off at 12.45pm with the Class 4 FWD Insurance Goahead Group Handicap (2000m).

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