12/09/2012 2:56PM

Hong Kong: California Memory, Ambitious Dragon affirm elite status with Grade 1 wins


California Memory and Ambitious Dragon have been the two best Hong Kong-based horses the last two years, a point they drove home Sunday at Sha Tin Racecourse.

California Memory won the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup, becoming the race’s first two-time winner, while Ambitions Dragon, who came close to being scratched from the race because of lameness, won the Group 1Hong Kong Mile.

The day’s other two Group 1 stakes went to outsiders, with England-based Red Cadeaux capturing the Hong Kong Vase and the Japanese sprinter Lord Canaloa successful in the Hong Kong Sprint.

California Memory, a 6-year-old by Hero’s Honor bred in France and campaigned there under the name Portus Blendium before being exported to Hong Kong late in 2009, won his first Hong Kong Group 1 in February 2011, and has been among the top horses in the country every since. He ran poorly when shipped to Dubai for the Dubai Duty Free in March, and his subsequent Hong Kong form suffered, but California Memory seemed back to his best after two preparatory races for the Gold Cup.

Under jockey Matthew Chadwick, he settled comfortably in midpack Sunday, was switched outside for racing room in the homestretch, and fairly easily caught the leaders, pushing out to a one-length win over the French raider Giofra, with Australia-based Alcopop third. The ever-disappointing Carlton House, making his final start for trainer Michael Stoute, finished sixth, with French Derby winner Saonois 10th. Winning time for 2000 meters on good turf was 2:03.09. Tony Cruz trained the winner for owner Howard Liang Yum Shing.

Ambitious Dragon had finished fourth behind California Memory in the 2011 Hong Kong Cup, but this year was turned back to a 1,600-meter trip for the Hong Kong Mile. Ambitious Dragon was under veterinary watch the 24 hours preceding the race, as he appeared to be sore, but the horse’s lameness improved sufficiently to permit his running in the Mile – which Ambitious Dragon proceeded to win with relative ease. With jockey Zac Purton aboard, Ambitious Dragon raced near the back of the field in the race’s early stages, making his serious bid about 1 ½ furlongs from the finish. He made the lead in the final sixteenth of a mile and won more easily than the margin of victory, three-quarters of a length, suggested. Glorious Days finished second, Packing Ok third, and Ireland-based Gordon Lord Byron fourth. Master of Hounds finished 10th, Siyouma 11th. The winner was timed in 1:34.12.

Red Cadeaux won his first Group 1 in the 2,400-meter Vase, beating Jaguar Mail by a nose to give trainer Ed Dunlop his second win in a race he had previously won with Snow Fairy. Gerald Mosse rode the winner, who had finished eighth in the Melbourne Cup and eighth in the Japan Cup in his two starts before Sunday’s breakthrough. Meandre finished third, with Dunaden fifth, Bayrir sixth, Joshua Tree ninth, and Chinchon last of 13.

Lord Canaloa dominated the sprint, winning by two and one-half lengths over Cerise Cherry. The two favorites, Lucky Nine and Joy and Fun, checked in fifth and fourth, respectively.