By Michael Lee – Singapore Turf Club
Champion galloper Debt Collector was equal to the task in the $500,000 Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) on Sunday, but did not fail in his reputation of sending many shivers down the spine before he got there.
Contrary to most of his previous 11 victories where the six-year-old son of Thorn Park leaves it late before touching the line first, he nearly got bloused out this time around.
In his typical style of rounding up the field by plotting the widest path from the 600-800m mark, Debt Collector ($8) was making steady inroads on the outside while Blizzard (Daniel Moor) and Preditor (John Powell) were holding their own in the middle of the track as they took the measure of the weakening Singapore Gold Cup winner Elite Invincible (Benny Woodworth) at the 300m.
The grandstand was up on their feet and ready to applaud another withering burst from the Kranji kingpin as regular partner Michael Rodd drove him to the front with 100m to go, but instead of pulling away, he came under the direct threat of Countofmontecristo (Glen Boss) who had sliced through the pack and was powerfully hitting the line along the running rails
The two great warriors finished wide apart and for a second, there was a belief that unexpected come-from-behind challenge from Countofmontecristo might have lowered the boom on Cliff Brown’s colossus.
But the judge’s photo was unequivocal. Debt Collector had a long neck to spare from Countofmontecristo, who for the second time in a row, had to play second fiddle to the champion.
The pair finished in the same order at their last clash in a Class 1 race over 1400m on March 10, and with the same margin – neck – splitting them, but in the other more usual pattern which normally typifies their style: Countofmontecristo in front and nabbed late by Debt Collector.
Preditor (John Powell) ran third another half-length away. The winning time was a smart 1min 34.18secs for the 1600m on the Long Course.
It was probably a bitter pill to swallow for Countofmontecristo’s camp given the huge punt they took by changing tactics nearly hit the jackpot, but that irrepressible Debt Collector just does not let his guard down.
Brown, who was at his first Chairman’s Trophy success, was again in awe at the way his precious charge knows where the winning post is, even if he did look decidedly vulnerable on Sunday, especially in the concluding stages.
“Debt Collector went through and stopped. I don’t think he saw Countofmontecristo sneaking through on the inside, but we won, which is great,” said Brown.
“He pulled up after the winning post, which is just him. Glen rode a clever race on Countofmontecristo, who’s a very good horse. It nearly paid off.
“To me, Debt Collector is the best horse in Singapore since Rocket Man.”
Rodd said he went into the Chairman’s Trophy with a certain level of confidence on the way Debt Collector has trained on since his first-up win on March 10, but he went through a rollercoaster of emotions during the race.
“There is no other horse who makes me go feel so many emotions. He makes me happy, but he can make me so angry as well,” said the Australian jockey who has now been aboard at 11 of Debt Collector’s 12 wins, including eight at Group level (five Group 1s).
“He dropped to last and I was just letting him find his momentum as usual, but when the race was on, he was not tacking on as I thought.
“He’s done it before. Either he goes flat out or he drops – you have to time his run well, sometimes he just wants to get on but today, I had to give him a slap on the shoulder, especially when they launched in front.
“We got there too early, and when I saw Glen on his inside, I remember I saw him drop to the back at the start, and I remember thinking ‘he’s up to something’ and he sure was.
“My horse is very smart, he will get going again when he sees another horse. That’s his competitive nature, but today, if Countofmontecristo had passed him, it would have been too late because he didn’t see him. We were lucky.”
Debt Collector has indeed survived that late scare to add roughly another $270,000 to the bank account, bringing his total earnings past the $3 million mark for the Barree Stable which had its principal owner Glenn Whittenbury at the races on Sunday.
“He made our hearts stop again, but that’s what he does all the time!” said the Australian owner.