By Bob Kieckhefer
California Memory got a perfect trip in the Longines Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) and went on to win the day's most iconic race Dec. 9 at Sha Tin Racecourse for the second straight year.
California Memory, a light gray 6-year-old gelding by Highest Honor, broke cleanly from the inside gate, took up a stalking position in the second flight and was moved out by jockey Matthew Chadwick as the field came off the stretch turn.
"He put them to bed in three or four strides," Chadwick said.
Giofra made up good ground in the final 50 meters and Alcopop also advanced smartly on the inside but neither was a threat to the winner. Giofra fell one length short and Alcopop was another 1 3/4 lengths in arrears.
California Memory finished the 2,000 meters in 2:03.09.
Carlton House, owned by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, finished sixth. He is ticketed to resume his career in Australia as Her Majesty's first "down under" runner. Two other fancied local Hong Kong runners, Zaidan and Irian, got home seventh and eighth. German runner Feuerblitz, who shot to the lead with a rush on the backstretch, faded to finish last.
Chadwick said the inside post "was the best draw you could pick out of the hat" for California Memory. "He can jump (from the gate) really well. From then on out, it was a patient game."
Although he has been tough in Hong Kong throughout his career, California Memory has been a disappointing shipper. He finished 12th in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) in March, then seventh in the Singapore Airlines Singapore cup (Sin-I) at Kranji in May.
"When he goes overseas, he gets injuries," said winning trainer Tony Cruz. That's what happened in Dubai and even in Singapore. Then we have to medicate him and then he does not run well. But we solved his problems. That's why he is running well now."
The race was rocked at midweek by the scratch of Cirrus des Aigles, the world's top-rated horse in training, due to a minor injury. Trainer Corine Barande-Barbe later said the injury was not career threatening, and she hopes to return to Hong Kong in 2013 with her French-based star.
Local runner Sweet Orange also was scratched, leaving a field of 11 starters.