By Michael Lee – Singapore Turf Club
Even if the one-way traffic scripted by most did not eventuate, hot favourite Bold Thruster still oozed class in the way he got the job done in the $175,000 Group 3 JBBA Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) on Friday night.
Regarded as the best three-year-old in this year’s captivating renewal of the first Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, the Shane Baertschiger-trained son of Turffontein had been ticking all the right boxes heading towards his racing comeback since his Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes (1200m) win in November.
The 12 opponents pitted against him were no slouch, but on the strength of his four crushing wins from last year, he was by far the one punters were throwing their hard-earned on the most.
At the 200m, they probably were looking forward to their next month’s pay. Bold Thruster (John Powell) had kicked clear at the top of the straight after showing the way from barrier No 1, but softened up by a very sticky Lim’s Dream (Callan Murray) from the start, the $8 hotpot was to fans’ shock, falling prey to the staggers.
Smart filly Siam Vipasiri (Glen Boss), the one touted as his most likely nemesis should he falter, was living up to the tag as she weaved her way through the pack, all poised to deal a sucker punch.
But trainer Michael Clements had another horse (he had a third in Siam Blue Vanda), Top Knight (Vlad Duric), who seemed to have the greater momentum as he was seen steamrolling home at the rate of knots on the outside.
For a second the red (Bold Thruster’s Tivic Stable colours) half of Kranji reached a standstill as they watched their hero clinging on desperately for dear life in a blanket finish, but the winning post came on time to save Bold Thruster who was semaphored as the winner by a short head from Top Knight.
Siam Vipasiri was game in defeat, finishing third another head away. Juvenile champion Lim’s Lightning (Saifudin Ismail) was not far off either in fourth place another length away while Siam Blue Vanda ran fifth another 1 ¼ lengths away.
The winning time was 1min 9.65secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.
Baertschiger was heaving a huge sigh of relief as he headed down to the winner’s stall.
Training the next superstar is always a heavy responsibility that is akin to a hiding to nothing, but on Friday, beads of sweat appeared even before they were sent on their way when the black gelding turned fractious in his gate No 1, even dislodging Powell at the back, but was luckily brought to heel in the end.
“It was a big run. He was first-up, hasn’t raced for five months and had to carry 57kgs for the first time,” said the Australian handler.
“The other horse (Lim’s Dream) took him on and that was why he felt the pinch late. He will strip a lot fitter after this run, and the second Leg, here we come.”
The second Leg of the Challenge is the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) which will be run in four weeks’ time on May 3.
Powell echoed the same sentiments that the rising star would benefit greatly from that first springboard.
“That Lim’s Dream poured the pressure on him. We couldn’t get away from him,” said the Australian jockey.
“Don’t forget he was running against horses who were hard fit from having already had a few runs under the belt. Whereas for him, he had 57kgs on his back and he hasn’t raced for five months.
“He will improve after today. His race fitness wasn’t quite there today, but we will also have to fix his barrier manners.
“We also have to teach him to slow down. He goes too fast in his early sectionals.”
Duric for one wished Top Knight went a touch faster in his closing sectionals, even if with the naked eye, the son of Zoustar looked like he was finishing like a mail train.
“I thought I won. We were so far apart,” said the two-time Singapore champion jockey who still pulled in a nice haul of three winners (Vittoria Perfetta, Broadway Success and Clarton Palace) for the night.
“It was still a great run. The 1400m and 1600m Legs will suit him better.”
Bold Thruster has now brought his record to five wins and one second from seven starts for stakes earnings around the $360,000 mark for the Tivic Stable.