California Spangle beats the world in G1 Al Quoz, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

California Spangle beats the world in G1 Al Quoz

Hong Kong ends 10-year drought at Dubai World Cup Night, first for Cruz and Avdulla

DUBAI - California Spangle charged to a record-breaking victory for Hong Kong in the US$1.5 million (S$2.02 million) Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m) at Meydan Racecourse on March 30.

The Starspangledbanner gelding defeated a world-class field to provide leading Hong Kong trainer Tony Cruz and Australian jockey Brenton Avdulla with career highlights.

Clocking 1min 07.5sec, the bold front runner overpowered his rivals to better Wildman Jack’s track record of 1:07.61, defeating Star Of Mystery (Frankie Dettori) by three-quarter length with Diligent Harry (Richard Kingscote) a similar gap away in third.

Hong Kong’s other runner, John Size’s Sight Success, finished fifth, 2½ lengths behind the winner.

“He ran like a champion today,” said Cruz, 67. “It means everything. Every trainer in their career has to win big races elsewhere, it’s part of your job.

“You’ve got to achieve something great in your life and you’ve got to win big races, not just the small ones.

“The big ones are the ones that count the most – that’s what racing is all about.

“I reckon he beat a very good sprinter, Star Of Mystery. I think we’ll (now) go to sprint races back in Hong Kong, at the end of April we’re going to take on Lucky Sweynesse. I believe he’s more a sprinter than a miler.”

Declaring a tilt at Royal Ascot a possibility, Cruz struck with his 12th attempt in Dubai to match the achievement of his brother Derek, who also won the Al Quoz Sprint with Joy And Fun in 2010.

“Yes, he (Derek) won it too – I can say something to him now,” said Cruz.

“I’m so happy to win with the whole family of the late Howard Liang here. I want to dedicate this race to him. Without him, this horse wouldn’t be racing today.”

Avdulla, 33, maintained his perfect record on California Spangle, who now has three elite Group 1 victories – the 2022 Longines Hong Kong Mile (1,600m), 2024 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) and the Al Quoz Sprint.

The Australian jubilated after passing the post, having settled just off the speed before taking over near the 200m with a precisely judged ride.

“It’s very special. He gave me a great ride – back from 1,400 metres,” said Avdulla.

“Tony just gave me the confidence to let him run where he wanted to run, so I just tried to keep him away from most of them, let him gallop how he wanted to.

“I felt I was nearly at the top throughout but once I pushed the trigger on him there inside the 400, he quickened well.

“I felt him wait for them and when Frankie (on Star Of Mystery) and the others got around him, I felt he went on with it again.

“I’ve only ridden him twice and won two Group 1s. Being on the world stage and to represent Hong Kong is amazing.

“It’s right up there. It probably takes the top. It was special winning the 1,400m race back in Hong Kong, but to win representing Hong Kong on the world stage is amazing.”

California Spangle becomes the first Hong Kong horse to win at the Dubai World Cup meeting since Ricky Yiu’s Amber Sky and John Moore’s Sterling City won the Al Quoz Sprint and Dubai Golden Shaheen (1,200m) respectively in 2014.

Incidentally, Amber Sky also broke the record in the Al Quoz Sprint, which was then staged over 1,000m.

California Spangle also continues Hong Kong’s strong run on the international stage this season, following the Danny Shum-trained Romantic Warrior’s win in the 2023 Group 1 Cox Plate (2,040m) in Melbourne.

Hong Kong’s hopes of slotting a double through either Voyage Bubble or Straight Arron were snuffed out by France’s Facteur Cheval, who narrowly won the US$5 million Group 1 Dubai Turf (1,800m).

Straight Arron finished sixth, while Voyage Bubble crossed the line in 13th place after being badly hampered when Catnip fell 100 metres from the finish line.

The highlight of the Dubai World Cup Night, the single richest day of thoroughbred racing in the world with a total purse of US$27.25 million over nine races, the US$12 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup (2,000m) was won by Laurel River for trainer Bhupat Seemar and multiple United Arab Emirates champion jockey Tadhg O’Shea.

After breaking the best, Juddmonte’s Into Mischief six-year-old had the race all sewn up mid-race when he opened up to a commanding lead. Never fading at any stage, he ran his rivals ragged with a 8½-length win over Japan’s Ushba Tesoro (Yuga Kawada). HKJC