On the left, the panoramic view from the new venue of the Kranji Mile Post Position Draw, the Cook & Brew Restaurant at the 33rd floor of The Westin, Asia Square, was simply breathtaking.
On the right, the electronic board graphically showing the way the 10 runners will jump out of the starting gates for this Saturday’s $1.5 million Group 1 race over the mile was also eye-catching.
But depending on which horse you are rooting for, some might prefer to look back at the Singapore Strait seascape on the other side.
To be fair, only a few might have felt that way, though. With a long chute stretching towards a long backstraight, and only 10 horses jostling for early position, the field has more time to sort itself out.
Steve Levar, whose wife Christine pulled out number one from one of the 10 panama hats – in line with this year’s slogan “Hautest Race” – for his local runner King Louis, was in such buoyant mood he felt like popping the question again!
Southern Legend’s owner Mr Boniface Ho went up on the stage himself, confident he could bring his lucky hand to Singapore again – and he sure did. Last year, he drew one at Clarke Quay and they were eventually first past the winning post. This time they drew the next box in two, widely regarded as equally good if not better.
Mr Ho was, however, staying guarded. Not because gate two might equate to the same berth on the result sheet. He was just very respectful of the second Hong Kong representative, Singapore Sling, even if after Tony Millard’s ward drew the outermost lane in 10 later, his confidence might take a tiny hike.
Joe Giovanni, Countofmontecristo’s always sartorially elegant owner, would have hoped for better than nine, but still kept his chin up as he got to add another hat (owners get to keep the panama hat as a memento) to his wide headgear collection.
Up till Saturday, it’s their thinking hats that owners, trainers and jockeys alike will wear in search of the shortest way home to yet another epic Kranji Mile.
KING LOUIS – Barrier No 1
“It’s absolutely perfect, I should marry Christine again!” was owner Steve Levar’s brilliant off-the-cuff reaction after wife Christine drew the coveted barrier No 1.
“King Louis just came off a rough run (Group 3 Moonbeam Vase), which he miraculously survived from. Or else I think he should have won.
“We have drawn on the inside of Southern Legend which is perfect. King Louis is more mature now and is in great form and we are confident that he can run a good race.
“Barrier one and having the services of champion jockey Vlad Duric are two big positives. We’ve got to be in it to win it and we’re in it.”
SOUTHERN LEGEND – Barrier No 2
“He’s a versatile horse who can come from the back or go forward, so two is really good. I’ll just leave it to Zac (Purton) to decide where he wants to run him,” said trainer Caspar Fownes.
“He’s just looking for the race now. May the best horse win and let’s hope my horse takes no ill-effects from that race.”
Hong Kong owner Boniface Ho, who drew one for last year’s inaugural Kranji Mile winners, was pleased with his lucky hand again, but is bracing himself for a stiffer challenge this year (he gave his reaction before Singapore Sling drew 10).
“I’m very happy with two,” said Mr Ho.
“He’s all right. He had a long rest after Dubai and is all prepared for Saturday’s race.
“But it’s also more difficult this year. Singapore Sling has very good recent form, especially his very close second to Beauty Generation, only one and half-a-length away.
“Based on that form, Singapore Sling will be hard to beat.”
BLIZZARD – Barrier No 3
“It’s a good barrier. He’s got the blinkers on and he should be able to get some cover from that barrier,” said trainer Lee Freedman.
“It’s better than being caught wide facing the breeze. If he gets some cover, that will allow him to come home better.”
DEBT COLLECTOR and ELITE EXCALIBUR – Barriers Nos 4 & 7
“Barrier No 4 is good for Debt Collector. He’s at the top of his game,” said trainer Cliff Brown.
“It’s full steam ahead. Nothing’s ever faultless, though, but we’re pleased with his prep.
“Not too much racing suits him best. All seems okay and we’re very happy with the horse.”
Brown was also pleased with Elite Excalibur’s barrier No 7, as was his last-start winning partner in the Group 3 Moonbeam Vase (1600m), Ben Thompson.
“He drew the outside in the Moonbeam Vase and won. After 100m, he was able to find a nice rhythm,” said the young Australian jockey.
“Countofmontecristo is drawn in nine and may be forced to do some work from the outside while my bloke will be doing his own thing and find his own spot.
“I’ve galloped him since his last win and he felt very good. Cliff was very happy with his gallop.
“My only concern is if the clouds open. He doesn’t like a yielding track.
“Since he came back from Dubai, he’s run three times on a yielding track and went ordinary. I hope it stays dry, nice and firm; he’ll then be in with a definite chance.
“It’s not a big field and is less likely to get stuck in traffic. If he is in a good position and gets the right breaks, he should be able to explode through.”
PREDITOR – Barrier No 5
“We would’ve been happy with three or four, and we got five, which is not too bad,” said trainer Shane Baertschiger’s assistant-trainer Scott Bailey.
“He will bounce midfield just off the speed. Barrier five will give him every chance as he is more adaptable these days.
“He’s really well and has come through his last run (fifth to Elite Excalibur in the Group 3 Moonbeam Vase over 1600m on May 5) really well. He has trained on.”
WAR AFFAIR – Barrier No 6
“It’s a pretty good draw. We hope he can get a good run from this draw and race to his usual pattern,” said trainer Bruce Marsh’s assistant-trainer Jason Ong.
“We’ll see how the speed pans out. Bruce will work out a plan.
“Hopefully, he can produce a big finish.”
MAKANANI – Barrier No 8
“I think there’ll be a lot of speed on. So it doesn’t matter she’s drawn eight as I’m sure she can sit somewhere,” said trainer Hideyuki Takaoka’s assistant-trainer Ryohei Hatano.
“It’ll be a tough race, especially with the Hong Kong horses in. But she wouldn’t mind a wet track, hopefully it rains.”
Jockey Marc Lerner who was on hand as he watched Hatano draw the wide barrier, was not too fazed either.
“It’s an okay gate. We will try and get some cover and she’ll be right,” said the French jockey.
COUNTOFMONTECRISTO – Barrier No 9
“He’s the type of horse for whom the barrier is not really a factor,” said trainer Michael Clements.
“He’s done well from a wide barrier before. The barrier is fine.
“He’s got the blinkers on, I’m not 100% sure it’ll make a huge difference, but it will definitely keep him more focused.”
SINGAPORE SLING – Barrier No 10
“It is what it is,” said a slightly disappointed Beverly Millard, wife of Hong Kong-based South African trainer Tony Millard.
“It’s not ideal, but you’ve got to deal with what you’re given. It’s up to Karis Teetan now.
“He was not disgraced at his last start when beaten by Beauty Generation (Champions Mile), and Southern Legend also finished in front of him once (Hong Kong Gold Cup over 2000m), but if he reproduces his last form, he has a good chance.”