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16 April 2024

Hong Kong back as California Spangle sparkles in Al Quoz Sprint

Published
By E247

$1,500,000 Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint Sponsored by Azizi Developments

A decade-long drought for Hong Kong at the Dubai World Cup meeting ended emphatically on Saturday as California Spangle - the only horse to defeat the world's highest-earning thoroughbred Golden Sixty in the last two years - showcased his bountiful speed and characteristic toughness to land an emotional Al Quoz Sprint win in track record time.
Ten years since a memorable night when Amber Sky landed the Al Quoz Sprint and Sterling City led home a Sha Tin quinella in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, the Tony Cruz-trained California Spangle flew the Bauhinia flag at Meydan once more under a perfectly timed Brenton Avdulla ride.
Anticipating the start to the millisecond, Avdulla was able to send California Spangle towards his customary forward position without expending too much energy early. While Ponntos set a strong tempo in front, the expected pressure did not eventuate which played into California Spangle's hands.
Racing to the lead at the 400 metres, the six-year-old gave a strong kick and kept on finding before holding off the late surge of three-year-old filly Star Of Mystery under Frankie Dettori to score by three-quarters of a length. Diligent Harry finished a further three-quarters of a length away in third.
California Spangle stopped the clock in 1:07.50, lowering the 1200-metre track record of 1:07.61 set by Wildman Jack in the 2020 G3 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint.
While all plaudits were deservedly with the winner, who scored his third Group 1 victory here after successes in the 2022 Hong Kong Mile (1600m) and the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m), another question was immediately posed post-race: what might have been for Hong Kong champion Golden Sixty on the world stage?
Restricted from travelling at the peak of his career due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Golden Sixty has never raced away from Sha Tin. California Spangle's victory again demonstrates his exceptional ability, serving as a reminder of how much healthier international racing is when Hong Kong horses are travelling abroad.
Winning trainer Tony Cruz said: “I knew it would happen sooner or later. I got this opportunity and I came with a lot of confidence that we would win this race today.
“The family - the ‘California family’ - is here today. Howard Liang, whose horses usually are named California, passed away recently so I would like to dedicate this win to him. We are over the moon with this, the owner’s wish was always to win these big races. I wish he was here tonight but his whole family is here and we’re going to celebrate together.
“If you look back through his history, California Spangle on his debut, he ran a record time in Hong Kong and he ran a record time at 1200m. I believe when he hits the front, nobody can catch him. 
"I think we’ll go into sprint races back in Hong Kong, that’s the end of April [the G1 Chairman's Sprint Prize]. We’ll take on Lucky Sweynesse. He’s always been a sprinter-miler and I believe he’s more a sprinter than a miler. You have to go for those longer races in Hong Kong earlier in their career but I think we know where he is best now."
Asked about Royal Ascot, he said: "It’s a possibility. I’ve got to try to work it out.”
Owner representative Chester Liang said: "The horse means a lot to my family and I and I’m really happy that we were able to win. Tony said if he won last time in Hong Kong, then we’d come. He did, we decided the horse was in good form, so we came. This was my dad’s favourite horse, so he always means a lot. He is probably looking down on us.”
Star Of Mystery (2nd), trainer Charlie Appleby said: “Delighted. Frankie [Dettori, jockey] said he just got to his [California Spangle’s] quarters and she went again. But she’s a three-year-old against battle-hardened sprinters. As to what we’ll do with her; it’s whether we go to the King’s Stand or give her a proper break. The race I’d like to work back from is the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint; I think that will suit her really well.”
Diligent Harry (3rd), trainer Clive Cox said: “He’s run an amazing race, this is far superior to the class of race he’s been in before, and he’s travelled all of the way here. I’m so proud of him, he’s really loved it and he’s acquitted himself admirably against a very high-class field, I’m thrilled to bits."
Bilhayl (4th), jockey Ben Coen said: “Huge effort to finish fourth, delighted with him. No excuses, ran great in a strong race.”
Sight Success (5th), jockey Ryan Moore said: “He ran with respect. He finished off well.”
Casa Creed (6th), jockey Luis Saez said: "He broke well, had a good trip, the winner just kept going."
Emaraaty Ana (7th), jockey Saffie Osborne said: "The draw probably hasn’t helped. Apart from Frankie not many managed to stay on with their positions. I had to bide my time and we wasted a bit of ground having to go left. But he’s run a really solid race and he tries very hard so it makes my life a lot easier.” 
King Gold (8th), jockey Stephane Pasquier said: "He needs a longer distance.”
Danyah (9th), jockey Jim Crowley said: "He didn’t really travel for me. Always under the cosh."
Frost At Dawn (10th), jockey Mickael Barzalona said: “Just wasn't able to maintain my speed today. I don’t know, she had nothing to give.”
Jasper Krone (11th), jockey Taisei Danno said: ”It was a hard race for him.”
Ponntos (12th), jockey Antonio Fresu said: "That kind of competition over six furlongs finds him out. He’s a very good five-furlong horse and he has had a good carnival. We were happy to be invited for the race but the extra distance is a problem for him.”