Michael Lee – Singapore Turf Club
With a squad of five runners in the 16-horse field in the $800,000 Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) on Saturday, trainer Michael Clements has on paper a one-in-three chance of success, even if his bad luck at the barriers may now lengthen up these odds.
It was always predicted this year’s Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, especially the Singapore Guineas, would be a Clements special.
The Zimbabwean-born trainer has over the last few years built up a growing reputation as a trainer of three-year-olds, with Countofmontecristo in 2017 by far his best advertisement.
Right off the first Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge this year, he already had a main core of three contenders – Top Knight (winner of the second Leg, the Classic), Siam Blue Vanda and Siam Vipasiri – jumping off the starting blocks and rising right through.
With the mile of the Guineas being a more suitable journey, Clements has tossed in two more names into the mix – Vittoria Perfetta and Siam Royal Orchid.
He couldn’t fault his big team. To him, luck in the running would be of paramount importance in a field of 16.
“Both Vittoria Perfetta and Siam Royal Orchid were looking for the mile, and that’s why I ran them only in the Guineas,” said Clements.
“Top Knight and Siam Blue Vanda are also looking for the mile. I think even Siam Vipasiri, who’s more of a sprinter, will get the trip.
“Siam Blue Orchid is only lightly-raced and doesn’t have much racing experience. He also had a few minor setbacks.
“He was coughing and the Guineas may have come up a bit early for him, but he has shown ability. It’ll be hard at level weights against the higher-rated 3YOs, but I’m sure he’ll put up a good show.
“Top Knight is still my best chance, especially on the Long Course. He’s in the right form and he’ll be up there.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t draw a great barrier – 12, but he gets back, anyway. I didn’t draw great barriers for the others either, the best is eight for Siam Vipasiri!
“I guess we’ll just have to try and keep out of trouble as it’s quite a big field.”
Clements, who has one Singapore Guineas on his resume, but when it was not part of the 3YO series (Revolte in 2009), said his quintet of three-year-olds have all ticked the right boxes at their last prep towards the grand final.
“They all galloped on Monday except for Siam Royal Orchid on Tuesday and Siam Vipasiri. Glen galloped Siam Vipasiri with blinkers on last week,” said Clements who captured the first two Legs with Countofmontecristo in 2017, but missed out in the Singapore Guineas when he was beaten in third by Forever Young.
“Ben Thompson galloped Siam Blue Vanda and he said he found the line very well. Vlad (Duric) does not ride Top Knight in trackwork, but the horse has been working great, too.”
With Duric sticking with likely favourite Top Knight, Vittoria Perfetta, who has always teamed up with the two-time Singapore champion jockey, will be partnered by Daniel Moor for the first time.
Moor was also in the mix for the ride on No Fun No Gain, but on Monday opted for Clements’ son of Zoustar, which left trainer Stephen Gray with no other choice but to book Japanese jockey Santoshi Yokenura at the eleventh hour, at No Fun No Gain’s Japanese owners’ recommendation.
Siam Royal Orchid will be ridden by Hong Kong-based South African jockey Aldo Domeyer, the surprise winner of last year’s inaugural Jockeys’ International Challenge.
“Aldo is flying in to ride Blizzard for Lee Freedman in the Kranji Mile. He said he had no Guineas ride, and Siam Royal Orchid’s owner, the Pupetch Racing Stable, was happy to have him on,” said Clements.
“They know what Aldo did last year. He won the jockeys’ series and won one race for us on Safeer, whom he was supposed to ride on Saturday, but unfortunately, he was balloted out.”
Clements won’t have much time for a breather at that Super Saturday card. He also has Countofmontecristo in the $1.5 million Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) and Gingerella in the $800,000 Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m), both for owner Joe Singh.
“I’m very pleased with Countofmontecristo. Not only he’s maintained his good form, but he’s a lot more perked up and brighter,” he said.
“His trackwork has been super and Glen is also very happy with him. Joe and I discussed and we decided to put the blinkers on as he ran well with them over the mile last year.
“He led but unfortunately that day, his jockey (Franco Da Silva) forgot his watch that day. He went home too soon and they got run down.
“At his last run in the Chairman’s Trophy, he was ridden from the back and nearly beat Debt Collector. He’s versatile, he can go forward or come from behind, it’ll be up to Glen to see how the pace evolves, and it will also depend on the barrier.
“As for Gingerella, she has also drawn wide in eight, but she’s very quick. It’s a small field and I think she is quick enough to come across.
“It’s good for her they have put the Lion City Cup on the Short Course before they switch to the Long Course for the other two big races.
“There will be a lot of speed. She is racing in a great vein of form and has done a great job so far.
“She also had her last gallop on Monday. I’m happy to see a senior rider back on her (after her second to stablemate Quarter Back in a Class 2 race over 1200m at her last start on May 10 when partnered by Mohd Zaki).
“It’ll be a top sprint race, it’ll go very fast, and hopefully, she’ll be up to the mark.”