Well, there is little doubt that the fields assembled for the Singapore Airlines International Cup (G1) and Krisflyer International Sprint (G1) are among the best ever for the big races here in the humid island state. After 4:30 A.M. busses to get to trackwork, occasional heavy rain, some great food and camaraderie amongst media, horsemen, and connections – it’s time to put our full analysis out there.
Know this much – if you have never been to Singapore, you really need to make a visit. The hospitality is top notch, the city is pristine, lush, safe, and still exotic. I can think of no other inner-city destination the world over that catches the eye quite like the Singapore Botanic Gardens, located just beyond the end of the famed Orchard Boulevard. We enjoyed a stroll through each visit to this glorious destination, and it always refreshed the soul. This is a great place to be.
Eleven races mark the program on Sunday, which stretches over 6 ½ hours. We will only offer our thoughts on the two big events.
Race 9 – S$1,000,000 Krisflyer International Sprint (G1) – 1,200 metres – Turf (Short Course – A)
Last year, we didn’t put Ato on top, but were keen on him and made it very clear we thought the locals had a top chance to land the spoils given the international representation in the event. This year, we are much more keen on the foreign shippers.
#6 KAVANAGH is the lone representative from Mike de Kock’s yard to make the trip, and he’s our version of the winner. He’s been ticking over in Dubai with assistant Trevor Brown, who brings him here for the big boss, and frankly, could not be happier with his preparation. In 2012, the best trackwork we saw for this race came from Ato, a 15-1 winner on course, but 50-1 earlier in the week overseas. Kavanagh, a son of Tiger Ridge, put in a sparkling work on Tuesday, his first speed work of the trip, but then surprisingly, BOLTED in on the training track behind the Kranji turf course on Friday morning.
We do not accidentally use the capital letters. Under absolutely no pressure, Brown had his charge out before most of the media even saw him, and he worked down the back of the track out of the view of all but a camera above the course. The official time for his final 600 metres was :35.10 seconds, the fastest work of the week of any contender in the race. As always though, the final time isn’t the point, it’s HOW he did it. When watching the work, we were dropping the superlatives without even seeing the time, but the post-work report only confirmed what we saw.
Kavanagh raced a bit in the shadow of Shea Shea, the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) winner who lowered his own course mark by more than a half-second winning that race. While taking a Meydan handicap on grass, he had two very solid runs on Tapeta, and arguably had excuses in the Dubai Golden Shaheen when tight on heels, but stayed on. He’s drawn well in three, and the demur Brown was chuffed with the draw immediately.
#1 BEL SPRINTER is the first horse the young Aussie trainer Jason Warren has ever traveled, and his win in the Galaxy Stakes was explosive. He tends to miss the kick and this has cause some trouble, but a horse who was only five lengths off Black Caviar is the top-rated runner in the field. Everyone around the course seems to be quoting the fact that you can’t win this race from too far back, but there is plenty of speed in the race.
#7 MR BIG, #9 GOAL KEEPER, #10 EMERALD HILL should all show early gallop, and Bel Sprinter is drawn right in the middle of this trio. For a horse that can be slow away, he’s well drawn in gate ten and has traveled well considering it’s the first time for the yard to go overseas. Overall, however, we think he might be undervalued in the markets, which goes against our interests.
#4 BALMONT MAST is winless on grass since his maiden score in October 2011 – Ed Lynam has been quite happy with his preparation, but arguably doesn’t know what they’ll get out of him. His closing sectional times in the Dubai Golden Shaheen were top notch, but according to Trakus, he covered seven metres less than the winner. In other words, he saved all the ground and might have been aided by that. Still, he’s well drawn and Johnny Murtagh makes the trip. In the end, we think he’s a placing chance at best.
#5 DUX SCHOLAR beat a rather weak bunch when winning a handicap at Meydan, but folded to a mid-field run in the Al Quoz Sprint, even in the end. He ran only the eleventh fastest final 400 metres, and the eighth fastest final 200 metres in the Al Quoz, and this is still a tough bunch. Like Balmont Mast, we think a placing chance is his best possible result, and prefer his stablemate in the big race to his chances here.
#8 DASHER GO GO has faced a few buzz shots in Japan against tougher company and has done very little work on the grounds. He was last to arrive, getting in early Tuesday morning, and stretched with some speed on Saturday morning, blowing out 200 metres in front of his trainer, Takayuki Yasuda. He can sit handy or settled a bit farther back, and on times, he should be in the mix. We just worry if he didn’t come in a bit too late to really settle to his best, and expect he might be slightly undervalued. The form against Lord Kanaloa, beaten only 2 ¼ lengths, is encouraging, especially as he had to cover all sorts of extra ground in that race. Internationally experienced Umberto Rispoli has the call for the first time in recent form.
What to do with #2 LUCKY NINE? He is essentially the enigma of the race, won in 2010 by trainer Caspar Fownes’s Green Birdie. Things were not right in the HK Sprint Cup (G2) last time, and was found to have bled. On his absolute best day, Lucky Nine is a legitimate shot here, but we have to play against him considering his recent issues.
Locally, #3 SUPER EASY is a legend. A winner of 13 wins from 15 starts in Singapore, the son of Darci Brahma has seemingly recovered well from his failed attempts in Hong Kong, beaten a total of ten lengths in two races. While back on home turf, it should be clear where this guy stacks up against international competition – a cut below. His win in the Lion City Cup (G1) last time was certainly good enough, but leaves us with the belief he will need a bit more to have his nose first on the wire. Another with a placing chance, but we can’t suggest him on top.
The aforementioned #7 MR BIG is the one we would want if he going local, and it is mostly on the back of his Dubai performance. Five horses lowered Shea Shea’s original course record from a Super Saturday win, and this guy was one of them. He did get a plum outer draw and was one of the two who went forward early and stayed on in the Al Quoz. There is every reason to think that he will be in better shape for this than he was in the Lion City Cup last time.
1st – #6 KAVANAGH, 2nd – #3 SUPER EASY, 3th – #1 BEL SPRINTER, 4th – #7 MR BIG
Race 10 – S$3,000,000 Singapore Airlines International Cup (G1) – 2,000 metres – Turf (Short Course – A)
Let there be no doubt that this is the best field ever assembled in this race.
To us, the winner comes from one of three: #1 MEANDRE, #2 MILITARY ATTACK, or #3 PASTORIUS. We would be surprised if any others take it, for a variety of reasons we will discuss, and more surprised if a local manages a massive upset. Let’s dive in.
#2 MILITARY ATTACK is the type of horse we love to play against. At some point, the son of Oratorio WILL find a troubled trip, but that just doesn’t seem the case here. The John Moore trainee managed a plum draw in four and is just on top of his game. How the Hong Kong horses perform in these types of races when they get away from their home turf, however, is a bit of a question mark. While we don’t question his overall ability, can he beat the class field outside of the friendly confines of the S.A.R? Beaten off in the APQEII Cup were Dubai Duty Free winner Sajjhaa, Igugu, California Memory, Eishin Flash, and Derby winner Akeed Mofeed. Top to bottom, however, this is a tougher field, off a three-week respite and a flight to get here. It might be worth taking a chance against, but we won’t be surprised if he wins with another perfect trip.
#3 PASTORIUS and #1 MEANDRE had the best works of the week for runners in this race, with Pastorius only lengthening on one day (Friday), and Meandre catching our eye with aplomb on Tuesday. Pastorius being in this race really puts a strange feel on the whole gambit – winning the first open, distance Group 1 of the European season and then leaving Europe to come in. He defeated the Dubai Duty Free third (Giofra) and the Dubai Sheema Classic fourth (Dunaden), and did it well. The expectation is that he’ll go back to Europe after this race. There just hasn’t been a horse in such top form from Europe swing over, and the Prix Ganay winner would surprise no one.
We are going with Meandre. First, he absolutely will appreciate getting back on grass. He ran an even race in the Dubai World Cup, and did cover more ground than most. His speed work on Tuesday was the most flawless of the lot, with the trackwork rider Martin Pearson sitting completely motionless as Meandre stretched away. He should settle mid-pack and while the race is only 2,000 metres, and his best performances have come over longer trips, sitting a bit wide is likely to be within reason to actually benefit him a bit – making the race a bit longer for him. His second in the dawdling Prix Foy behind Orfevre is likely the best running line in the race, and that includes #4 RED CADEAUX’s December win at Hong Kong.
There absolutely deserves to be some concern regarding the jockey booking on Meandre, but that is how the ownership wants it to be. A draw in 12 actually feels perfect for this race, and if he can settle well and run on, he is third off the extended break and back on grass – this is the spot and the value will surely be there.
#5 DAN EXCEL was winless for a long way before landing the Champions Mile in a legitimately weak renewal, and like his stablemate, getting a perfect trip. We appreciate Military Attack more and would be shocked if Dan Excel can wheel back with another top effort off the ship.
#4 RED CADEAUX is as game as they come, and you play against him at your own peril, but he is significantly likely to be much too far back to grab the win here, and a placing chance is best. At some point, the tank has to run low. We respect his ability to travel and show with the best of them, but are against him in this spot.
#6 HUNTER’S LIGHT ran four sparkling races in his last six, three on all-weather along with the Italian Group 1 success when he bolted to the outside rail and likely would’ve scored by much more if straightened. He has not seemed right to us all week, and ours is not the only one that shared that opinion amongst the media centre. This is a tough bunch for him to get back on grass, and his successes have come against lesser when given the opportunity. He’ll be a surprise to us.
#7 MAWINGO is staying in Singapore after this effort, and think he might just need some more time to come onto the local conditions.
#8 MULL OF KILLOUGH might not know what to do when asked to turn – his last three wins coming in good fashion against massively inferior competition, and all over the straight courses at Newmarket. Another who would shock.
Five local runners round out the field, with the mare #13 BETTER LIFE the best chance amongst them. She is third off the extended layoff and is certainly a course specialist, winning seven of 12 here in Singapore. #9 FLAX was third in this race a year ago when rain softened the experience for many and he just stays on with fervor. While a win would be a massive boilover, he can run third.
Overall, we think only a few horses can win the Singapore Airlines International Cup, but almost all of them could grab a placing without shock. Meandre should sit mid-pack and kick on if given the opportunity to settle in good form by Khamzat Ulubaev. We think Military Attack is a likely candidate to score, but has done little since getting here and likely needs it to go his way yet again, while Pastorius is a bit of a wild card who will get plenty of action.
1st – #1 MEANDRE, 2nd – #3 PASTORIUS, 3rd – #2 MILITARY ATTACK, 4th – #13 BETTER LIFE