California Whip displayed abundant grit to hold his pressing opponents in the Group 3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin Racecourse this afternoon (24 June, 2018), ensuring trainer Tony Cruz’s completion of a remarkable run of big-race success.
The handler has won all six of Hong Kong’s Pattern races in May and June, a streak that features Pakistan Star’s brilliant G1 brace. Today’s 10-race card offered the final two opportunities to snare a Group race win this term and Cruz bagged both – California Whip’s victory following on the heels of stablemate Exultant’s score in the G3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m).
“I’m excited about how things have gone today, it’s always good to count the big ones – they count the most,” Cruz said.
Karis Teetan had never sat atop California Whip (114lb) prior to today but that was no hindrance to the lightweight ace. The Giant’s Causeway five-year-old, the 3.6 second pick, was sharpest from the gate but Teetan was happy to allow the Matthew Chadwick-ridden Magic Legend a clean run on the lead.
“Tony said to expect that there might not be much pace on, so if I was in front to just leave him there and he’d keep going,” the Mauritian rider said. “But I was pleased when I saw Magic Legend go on and take the lead because he came back underneath me and saved a little bit.”
California Whip tracked the John Moore-trained galloper into the straight and when Teetan shook the reins at the 400-metre mark, the British import responded gamely. The chestnut edged ahead, saw off Magic Legend (114lb) once and for all with 150m remaining and boxed on to win by a neck as Born In China (121lb), Lucky Bubbles (130lb) and last year’s winner Thewizardofoz (133lb) closed in a blanket swoop.
“In the straight when I showed him daylight, he was tough and he fought all the way to the line,” Teetan said.
“He came into the race with a perfect chance – he won his last start, he had a low weight and it was a small field – and he took his chance. He’s in form and it all went his way today.”
Cruz was satisfied with Teetan, a first-time partner for California Whip who was backing up at the course and distance after a Class 1 victory last month.
“The jockey did a very good job,” Cruz said. “The other horse set the pace and when he came into the straight he just accelerated and they couldn’t catch him. He’s a 1400-metre specialist.”
The Francis Lui-trained pair Born In China and Lucky Bubbles filled the minor placings as California Whip stopped the clock at a swift 1m 20.57s.
In the battle for the champion jockey title, Zac Purton closed the day pretty much exactly as he started it, with a five-win lead over defending champion Joao Moreira. Both riders snagged a brace, Purton atop Exultant and the Almond Lee-trained Enjoy Life, and Moreira aboard the Peter Ho-trained Audacity and Marzouq from the John Size stable.
Also in double form were Chad Schofield and apprentice Matthew Poon. Schofield was on the mark with the Michael Chang-trained Chaparral Star in race two and then enjoyed an exciting score atop the Paul O’Sullivan-trained Win Beauty Win in the finale, the three-year-old pulling clear of the smart trio of Solar Patch, Conte and Harmony Hero.
Poon’s two-timer came thanks to the Moore-trained Happy Meteor in race four, shortly before the same trainer’s Werther ran a fine second at Hanshin, Japan in the G1 Takarazuka Kinen. Poon was also on the mark in race eight thanks to the Derek Cruz-trained Mighty Maverick.
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 27 June.