Countofmontecristo jumps on the post-Kranji Mile Australia bandwagon

Countofmontecristo has bowed out of Kranji.
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By Michael Lee – Singapore Turf Club

One day after it emerged that the Invitational Group 1 Kranji Mile was directly responsible for 2016 Singapore Horse of the Year Debt Collector’s early exit from Kranji, his arch-rival and another defeated local runner will be joining him on a flight to Australia – Countofmontecristo.

While some may think the $1.5 million glamour race has claimed two of Singapore’s top draw gallopers as casualties, Countofmontecristo’s owner Joe Giovanni said he had already planned out the trip for his former Singapore Three-Year-Old champion way before the race.

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Unlike trainer Cliff Brown who announced on Tuesday Debt Collector had run his last race in Singapore after succumbing to respiratory distress in the wake of another Hong Kong landslide dominance in the Kranji Mile, headed by back-to-back winner Southern Legend. There was a high chance the Thorn Park six-year-old might pursue his racing career in Australia if he recovers, given the good prognosis for such wind issues.

There was, however, no such health speculation for the Michael Clements-trained Countofmontecristo, who under jockey Glen Boss, ran fifth, a neck away from Debt Collector (the pair have clashed countless times with Debt Collector having the wood on Countofmontecristo).

Giovanni’s best horse since Gingerbread Man is sound as a bell. The plan is to actually race the Echoes Of Heaven five-year-old Down Under before bringing him back to Singapore next year, for hopefully another shot at the Kranji Mile, albeit with a proviso from his owner.

“Count pulled up good after the race. He has no issue, but I had already planned to send him to Australia for a break and then race him there, even if he had won the Kranji Mile,” said Giovanni.

“There are not any feature races on the Short Course in Singapore. There’ll be better opportunities for him in Australia where he will race on different tracks, and he can be more competitive.

“I spoke to Kris Lees about Count and he will assist to take over as trainer once the horse reaches Melbourne. Count will go into quarantine on the same day as Debt Collector, the 6th of June.

“Kris will find suitable races for him there and if he does well, they will hopefully be nice lead-up races to some Group races in August.

“He will then have a freshen-up and then go to Perth for the two Group races in November (Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes over 1200m) and December. He will then take a break for two months before coming back to Mike in Singapore.”

The choice of Lees as Countofmontecristo’s trainer in Australia stands to reason as the Newcastle trainer already prepares former Kranji galloper Zip A Dee Doo Dah for the Singaporean owner-breeder. The previous Singapore four-time winner (when prepared by Leslie Khoo) has already won the Kempsey Cup (1450m) and one 1900m race at Canterbury for the Lees-Giovanni pair.

But whether or not Countofmontecristo pads up his already smart record of seven wins and eight placings for close to $1.35 million in stakes earnings in Australia, he may still stay as Zip A Dee Doo Dah’s stablemate for longer if the feature race landscape at Kranji does not change, said Giovanni.

“If Singapore still has no short courses for Group races next year, we may consider not bringing him back. It’s good to have such races for horses who are more on the speed,” said Giovanni.

“Anyway, I will hopefully have Eye Guy for the Kranji Mile next year.”

The Bradbury’s Luck four-year-old ran a brave second to Elite Excalibur in the Group 3 Moonbeam Vase (1600m) on May 5, but with a rating of 80, he didn’t make the cut in last Saturday’s Kranji Mile.