HONG KONG, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- California Memory stormed through along the rail in the final yards to win Sunday's $2.6 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup by 1 length.
Irian, ranging up along the outside, took second to complete a 1-2 sweep for Hong Kong runners. German-based Zazu, who raced right behind the slow early pace, held on for third and last year's Hong Kong Horse of the Year, Ambitious Dragon, got home fourth.
California Memory, a gray, 5-year-old Highest Honor gelding, finished 2,000 meters in a slow 2:04.57 with Matthew Chadwick in the irons.
The win was a bit of a turnabout for California Memory, who finished second to Ambitious Dragon last spring the Group 1 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup over the same course and distance. He then wrapped up last season with a rather dismal eighth-place finish in the Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup at Kranji Racecourse.
He finished first and then fourth in two early-season preps for this race with trainer Tony Cruz mapping the campaign.
"We had a game plan" for Sunday's race, Chadwick said. "At the end of the day, we were lucky and able to get through. At the 100 (meters), I just needed a gap to get through and win."
Cruz said the Cup "is the race to win" for a Hong Kong trainer but added, "I'm sure we're expecting bigger things to come. We stick to the local races, the Dubai races, the Singapore races."
This year, he said, California Memory has improved over last season because "he has become a better, stronger racehorse in every way.
"He has the best acceleration. Whether the pace is slow like it was today or right on, he is able to accelerate into it."