California Spangle Lights Up G1 Al Quoz Sprint

March 31, 2024

Brenton Avdulla pilots California Spangle to a third Group 1 triumph. (Dubai Racing Club)

By Leo Schlink in Dubai

MEYDAN—California Spangle has charged to record-breaking victory in the HK$11.7 million G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m), defeating a world-class field to provide Tony Cruz and Brenton Avdulla with career highlights at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday (30 March).

Clocking 1m 07.50s, California Spangle (130lb) overpowered his rivals to better Wildman Jack’s track record of 1m 07.61, defeating Star Of Mystery (117lb) by three-quarters of a length with Diligent Harry (130lb) a further three-quarters of a length away in third. John Size’s Sight Success finished fifth, two and a half lengths behind California Spangle.

“He ran like a champion today,” Cruz, 67, said. “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.”

Tony Cruz wins his first Group 1 in the United Arab Emirates. (Dubai Racing Club)
Brenton Avdulla helps Tony Cruz wins his first Group 1 in the United Arab Emirates. (Dubai Racing Club)

“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.

Flanked by members of the Liang family, Cruz said: “Yes, he (Derek) won it too – I can say something to him now.

“I had a plan and you’ve got to have a plan. I knew it would happen sooner or later. Better late than never.

“I thought he had the ability to win this race today over 1200m – he proved himself today. 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.”

California Spangle is now a three-time Group 1 winner. (Dubai Racing Club)

Avdulla, 33, maintained his perfect record on California Spangle, who now has three elite victories – the 2022 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), 2024 G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) 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 1400 metres, 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 and let him gallop how he wanted to,” Avdulla said.

“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 (Dettori on Star Of Mystery) and them got around him, I felt he went on with it again.

“He’s an amazing horse. 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 1400m race back in Hong Kong, but to win representing Hong Kong on the world stage is amazing.”

California Spangle is the first Hong Kong horse to win the Al Quoz Sprint since Ricky Yiu’s Amber Sky in 2014.

Connections of California Spangle celebrate the victory. (Dubai Racing Club)
Connections of California Spangle celebrate the victory. (Dubai Racing Club)

The Starspangledbanner gelding continues Hong Kong’s strong run on the international stage this season and follows Danny Shum-trained Romantic Warrior’s win in the 2023 G1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) in Melbourne.

Size said Sight Success had “got a little bit lost.”

“He jumped well and travelled okay the first section and then he got a little bit lost running down the straight and lost ground, but I thought he ran well,” Size said.

Hong Kong’s hopes of slotting a famous double through either Voyage Bubble and Straight Arron were snuffed out by France’s Facteur Cheval, who narrowly won the HK$39 million G1 Dubai Turf (1800m).

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.

“It was exciting, he’s run a bottler against the best – we’re very proud,” Fownes said of Straight Arron. “I thought we had a live chance at the 300 (metres). He was coming strong.”

Facteur Cheval has been entered for the HK$28 million G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) on FWD Champions Day at Sha Tin on 28 April.

@jonathanstettin congrats on a great hit. Very nice job!!!

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