By Michael Lee – Singapore Turf Club
Singapore champion sprinter Lim’s Cruiser is all set to fly off for his second overseas raid – the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs at Royal Ascot on June 22.
The invitation from the British scouts had been received well before the running of Saturday’s Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m), a race most thought he would win easily off the back of his first-up second despite a tough run in the Group 3 Rocket Man Sprint (1200m) three weeks earlier, including trainer Stephen Gray.
But after the Casino Prince six-year-old, who had star Hong Kong jockey Zac Purton up, ran a neck second to Aramco, Gray said the decision to press on with England or not needed a few Panadols.
I’ve been chewing on it for so long it’s given me a headache,” said the Kiwi conditioner.
“If Lim’s Cruiser had won by a neck, we’d all been jumping up and down and we’d definitely be going to Ascot. But then he got beat a neck, what do we do now?
“I’ve been speaking to (Lim’s Stable’s racing manager) Mick Dittman since he got beaten. I told him I saw nothing wrong with him or that run, and what we were going to do with him if he doesn’t go to England?
“There’s nothing until that Polytrack race (Group 2) Merlion Trophy (1200m) on August 25. He can still come back for that race and later have a crack at the Raffles Cup (September 22) over the mile, which will be a test for him.
“We thought about it and actually saw more reasons to go to England than not to go.”
From the defrayed cost of travelling halfway around the world to having more irons in the fire than at Kranji, Gray could go on and on – with the top hat and tail a fancy bonus!
“It’s a subsidised trip which won’t cost a lot. It’s the right race to have a go, we’re not going for just the top hats,” he said.
“It’s also predicted the race (Diamond Jubilee) won’t be as strong this year. If he gets rain and he handles the straight, he could be a chance.
“We went with Emperor Max who ran seventh in the (QIPCO) British Champions Sprint Stakes over 1200m in 2015. But he had issues, he was a known bleeder and that may have prevented him from running third.
“But the biggest draw is if he runs well, there is an opportunity to either run him in the Group 1 Darley July (1200m) on July 13, and there is also a Group 2 race over 1400m at Goodwood on July 30.
“Even if he doesn’t go well, at least he has these options while he has nothing here until August 25. We might as well go there.
“It’s a nice set-up, he gets the sun on his back, there are green paddocks. Horses thrive in such an environment, they come back refreshed.
“Emperor Max loved it there and came back a better horse. Even Lim’s Cruiser settled well in Hong Kong and even if he didn’t win (seventh in Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint over 1200m on December 9), he came back a stronger horse.”
Still, the fact the eight-time winner failed in his bid for three Lion City Cups, beaten by a horse he was supposed to have his measure of, did dent his enthusiasm for England, but the sport-mad rugbyman in Gray loves a good scrum.
“It’s always been my dream to have horses good enough to take on overseas horses. That’s what it’s all about, represent Singapore on the international stage, people forget it’s a sport and not always about the punting side,” he said.
“Lim’s Cruiser is one such horse who deserves to have a shot. It’ll be an honour for Mr Lim (Siah Mong), a great supporter of racing for so many years, and myself to have a horse run at Ascot.
“There was a doubt after he ran second on Saturday. I’ve been thinking what I did wrong, even if he actually pulled up better than his first-up run in the Rocket Man Sprint, which took the edge off him.
“It was such a hard race that day. He lost seven kilos but he lost only two kilos after the Lion City Cup.
“The only horse that could beat him did. He is a good horse fresh and he was brilliantly ridden (by Vlad Duric).
“Mick Dittman told me one thing. He’s ridden many good horses and many times, things don’t go to plan and they gets beat, but they can win next time out.
“He told me if we don’t venture and have a crack, we’d die wondering.”
Just like with Emperor Max, Gray will be using the same Newmarket stabling facilities for Lim’s Cruiser who is booked to leave Singapore on June 8.
“He will be at Jane Chapple-Hyam’s stables and I’ll be using Jane’s track riders,” said Gray.
“Lisa O’Shea (ex-stable supervisor with trainers Kuah Cheng Tee and Bruce Marsh) will be the travelling foreman, and my son James will also be there.
“He will have two weeks there. He will be going there fit as the Lion City Cup was like a gallop.
“He will have a nice lead-up gallop there. We haven’t decided on the jockey yet, we’ll do that in due course.
“I really think he’s improved, he’s spot-on for that race, so we decided to go.”