Published 2023/12/08



Tony Cruz plots LONGINES Hong Kong Mile repeat with California Spangle

By Maddy Playle

California Spangle was the giantkiller in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) last year when defeating the outstanding champion Golden Sixty and his trainer Tony Cruz believes the combination of a new jockey and an excellent draw can be inductive to a similar performance in Sunday’s (10 December) showpiece.

The classy miler handed Cruz his 11th win at the Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) last year, meaning he returns as the meeting’s most successful trainer, and the former top jockey is confident changes within the team will not stop California Spangle producing another electric display.

Zac Purton rode him to make most of the running and defeat Golden Sixty by a neck in a dramatic running of the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile last year, but Hong Kong’s six-time champion jockey has not ridden the five-year-old for his two starts this campaign.

Hugh Bowman was aboard when the gelding made a winning reappearance in the G2 Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) in October, while Matthew Chadwick partnered him to a fourth-placed effort in the G2 BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1600m) last time.

Cruz is turning to a trusted figure to deliver him back-to-back victories in the race, with Christophe Soumillon booked to ride California Spangle for the first time.

The Belgian rider will be bidding to win his third Hong Kong Mile after success with another locally trained star Good Ba Ba in 2008 and Admire Mars in 2019.

“We’ve had to change the jockey but at least we can get hold of Christophe Soumillon and I think that will make a big difference,” Cruz said in Sha Tin’s parade ring on Thursday (7 December). “I know him very well, he’s ridden for me in the International races before, so I’m very happy to have him.

“There’s been a lot of change in jockeys and also the owner sadly passed away, but California Spangle is in very good form coming into this race. I’m very happy with his condition and I’m delighted with the barrier draw.”

California Spangle was handed stall three at the official ceremony, just one position wider than when he was victorious last year, and his trainer believes it will allow him to take advantage of his blistering early speed.

“I don’t believe anybody can take him on for the lead,” he said. “He’s still the fastest horse there and he’s got an inside draw. He’s going to dictate the race again.”

Golden Sixty broke from stall four last year but this time will have to negotiate the widest berth in 14, a factor Cruz believes will make life difficult for Stanley Chan’s behemoth.

“It doesn’t seem like a good place to be,” he said. “Last year we were lucky because we were in front and he had to go around the field on the turn. In doing that he came too late to catch California Spangle.”

Cruz will also run last year’s fourth, Beauty Joy, in the race, while he is also doubly represented in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) with Five G Patch and La City Blanche.

Champion Dragon lines up for him in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races take place on Sunday (10 December) at Sha Tin racecourse.


Photo 1 California Spangle upstages Golden Sixty.

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Photo 2 Tony Cruz has 11 LONGINES HKIR victories.