Hong Kong


Avdulla eyes third consecutive Group 1 with California Spangle

Brenton Avdulla has a perfect record aboard California Spangle and the in-form Australian will be hoping it stays that way when the pair takes aim at the HK$22 million G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, 28 April. 

Twice victorious under Avdulla, California Spangle’s resurgence is one of this season’s success stories following victories in the HK$13 million G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) and US$1.5 million (approx. HK$11.74 million) G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m). 

“If you told me 12 months ago that I would be linking up with California Spangle and taking on the world I would have laughed at you.

“Hong Kong’s most popular horses at the moment are obviously Golden Sixty, Romantic Warrior, Lucky Sweynesse and California Spangle. He’s got a good horse's record and to be partnering a horse like him in my first season in Hong Kong is an absolute honour.

“I’m very thankful to Tony Cruz. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that has got me this opportunity. I’ve had some good support from a number of trainers,” Avdulla said.

California Spangle is back on ‘home turf’ after his historic Dubai sojourn; picture hkjc.com

California Spangle saw his form dip following first-up victory in the HK$5.35 million G2 Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) in October. The Irish-bred was unplaced in four subsequent runs, including a lacklustre 13th placing in the HK$32 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) last December. 

The decision to switch back to sprinting with the Group 1-winning miler has reaped massive rewards for Cruz and now California Spangle is expected to be favourite in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, which won’t feature Lucky Sweynesse, who is out with injury.

Two former sparring partners, Golden Sixty and California Spangle, finished first and second at Sha Tin this morning (Tuesday, 16 April) in a barrier trial over 1200m on the dirt. Golden Sixty led the field home in 1m 10.31s. 

“I’m happy with him [California Spangle]. He’s had a busy last six weeks. He won here, he went to Dubai and he seemed to travel well and did a good job. He’s come back and he’s only just got out of quarantine yesterday [Monday, 15 April]. 

“He trialled this morning — he was moving well, feeling well and I thought he trialled just as well as he did to prior to me riding him in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup,” Avdulla said.

Golden Sixty returns in the HK$22 million G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m), aiming to win the race for a fourth consecutive time for trainer Francis Lui.

“You look at him and you can see he is happy. He’ll have another grass gallop next Thursday [25 April],” Lui said.

Ben Thompson only recently arrived in Hong Kong but the talented jockey is relishing the opportunity to ride in one of world racing’s most challenging jurisdictions.

“I’m loving it. It’s just gone two months — time has flown. It’s great to have had a few winners and I’m receiving great support.

“It’s been an amazing couple of months — with what I’ve learnt and just to be in this environment. Hopefully, I can stay here for longer,” Thompson said.

A lightweight in the saddle, Thompson has ridden successfully in Australia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and now Hong Kong.

He is aiming for a hat-trick of wins atop Courier Magic in the Class 3 Siu Ma Shan Handicap (1800m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (17 April).

“He’s been going super. He’s really enjoying getting around Happy Valley. He steps up to 1800 metres but he remains in Class 4, which he won in last start,” Thompson said.

Trained by Jamie Richards, Courier Magic has two wins from nine starts in Hong Kong.

“He’s drawn barrier 10 but given he comes in on a rating of 47 with a light weight, there’s no reason to suggest why he can’t keep going on with his winning ways,” Thompson said.

Wednesday’s (17 April) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off at 6.40pm with the Class 5 Stubbs Handicap (1000m).