|Champion galloper Debt Collector overcame all the odds stacked up against him to prevail in a thrilling finish to the $100,000 Class 1 race over 1400m on Sunday.
Resuming against top-notch gallopers who already had a few runs under the belt, the 2016 Singapore Horse of the Year was also giving weight to the vast majority of his 11 rivals.
And on the Long Course E, the timing of the run for the noted backmarker had to be spot-on.
Dropped back to his customary rearward spot, Debt Collector, whose last run came in his Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m) win in October, only got on his bike at the 700m as Rodd flicked on the afterburners to launch him on his usual warpath around the outskirts.
Upfront, the win looked up for grabs when race-leader Forever Young (Azhar Ismail) started to show weary legs at the 400m.
Elite Invincible (Benny Woodworth), who had elected for similar Singapore Gold Cup winning tactics by taking up a prominent spot from the outset, looked a winning chance when he was the first one to pounce, but Countofmontecristo (Glen Boss) was within whiffing distance as were the Lee Freedman pair of Blizzard (Iskandar Rosman) and Circuit Land (Vlad Duric).
At the 200m, with six to seven horses spread across the track within a couple of lengths of each other, it was anybody’s guess which way the win would swing towards.
For a few seconds, Countofmontecristo seemed to be holding sway as he held his last-start Fortune Bowl conqueror Blizzard at arm’s length, but those familiar pink colours of Debt Collector were again looming more ominously than ever on the grandstand side.
With the two leading protagonists poles apart across the E Course, you needed laser vision to split them, but the momentum – and racing Gods – were in the corner of that bombproof customer yet again – as it has been on 10 previous occasions.
A neck separated Debt Collector ($22) from a gallant Countofmontecristo with Blizzard third another head away. Circuit Land completed the quartet another 1 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was a smart 1min 21.98secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.
Superlatives were again flowing freely at the winner’s circle, but trainer Cliff Brown was as usual doing his best to keep his emotions in check.
“This horse means the world to me. He is a dream to train,” said the Australian handler.
“He’s just remarkable. He’s come back bigger and stronger and he did it with 59kgs on his back first-up.
“There were some very good horses like Countofmontecristo, Elite Invincible, Blizzard he had to give weight today, but he still came through.
“Still, it was quite a hard run and we have to be very careful with what we do next with him.”
Rodd, who has now been aboard at all of Debt Collector’s wins bar one (when ridden by Duric), said it almost felt like déjà vu as the magic carpet ride continues.
“He was pretty remarkable again. It was the same as the other times he won,” said the Australian jockey.
“We were probably further back than I would have wanted. I could have been closer earlier by going on the fence, but I switched to the outside instead.
“The tempo was very good and I was very happy with that. One of my mentors, Mick O’Brien, always told me that if you are going to go to the outside fence, you go all the way to the outside.
“I had to time the run well, especially for him as he doesn’t switch off, and he was so wide apart from Countofmontecristo, it was quite tricky.
“I wouldn’t say he’s come back better as that would put more pressure on us, but that trip to Australia (in late 2017 till beginning of 2018) was a good break, it’s furnished him.
“It’s a testament to the good job Cliff and the boys have done with him. He’s competing at the top end of some quality horses, and he’s still come back and won.”
Debt Collector’s outstanding record now stands at 11 wins, two seconds and two thirds from 22 starts for stakes earnings in excess of $2.8 million for the Barree Stable of Mr Glenn Whittenbury, who was on hand to see his pride and joy race.
By Michael Lee (Singapore Turf Club)