Another challenge for California Spangle in Sunday’s BMW Hong Kong Derby
Zac Purton used all of his expertise aboard California Spangle to nail a sublime win in the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) last month and this Sunday (20 March) at Sha Tin the Australian is out to transcend that effort when the Starspangledbanner gelding dips to the extremities of his stamina reserves in the HK$24 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
“The 2000 metres is a new challenge that’s going to stretch him again, the 1800 metres really stretched him last time, so barriers will be important and the way the race is run will too – he is not the type of horse that sits up and goes slow, he likes to get into his rhythm and roll along, just like he did last time,” Purton said.
The Irish bred has come a long way since winning his first two starts at Griffin level over 1000m and 1200m, successfully answering each question asked of him by trainer Tony Cruz to soar from a rating of 69 at the beginning of this campaign to a career-high 101.
“He was inside of standard for the first 1200 metres of the race, so he was rolling along at a nice enough speed and every horse had their chance, but the barrier will be important for him (this weekend), he really needs a bit of help to run the distance,” Purton said.
California Spangle is a three-time winner over 1200m this term, while he finished second to Romantic Warrior two starts ago in the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) before his impressive all-the-way win in February’s Hong Kong Classic Cup.
“He’s a quality horse and he’s racing against his own age, and we’ve seen time and time again that they can stretch out over a little bit further under those conditions, which is what he is going to have to do, but he’s certainly not a horse that’s going to be able to run the distance comfortably and that could go against him,” Purton said.
The four-year-old has banked a cool HK$15.42 million across eight runs in Hong Kong – a figure he is looking to enhance this weekend by giving Cruz a third BMW Hong Kong Derby crown as a trainer after Lucky Owners (2004) and Helene Mascot (2008).
“It’s a strong race – Romantic Warrior covered more ground than me last time, if we swap the runs or the barriers, he clearly beats me home and Turin Redsun was good also,” Purton said.
Purton is chasing a second win in the blue-riband contest after Luger prevailed in 2015 while since the beginning of February, the 39-year-old has slammed in 33 wins to lead the 2021/22 jockeys’ championship on 89 ahead of the season’s 54th fixture this evening.
Prior to his engagement in Sunday’s BMW Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin, Purton hops aboard last-start winner Armour Eagle at Happy Valley in the second section of the Class 3 Chester Handicap (1200m) tonight (Wednesday, 16 March).
“He’d shown good form at Sha Tin previously and obviously he drew well, he had a light weight, he was able to take advantage of the good start and he had the perfect run but he got around Happy Valley really nicely,” the Australian said.
Trained by Me Tsui, the Epaulette gelding is a one-time winner from five starts in Hong Kong after arriving from Australia as a two-time winner for Tony Gollan at Doomben.
“It’s going to be a little bit more difficult this time with the extra weight and the more awkward gate but he’s in good form and he might go on with it a little bit more now,” Purton said.
Wednesday’s (16 March) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off with the Class 5 Selkirk Handicap (1000m).