By Michael Lee – STC
Leading trainer Mark Walker saddles a quarter of the bumper 16-horse field in Sunday’s $175,000 Group 3 Silver Bowl (1400m), but sees the first Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge more as a launchpad to better things for most of them.
Sharpness of distance aside, Walker also felt the set-weights conditions of the newly-created feature race will put his quartet of lower-rated horses behind the eight-ball with regards to Mister Yeoh (100 points).
With his best horse on 80 points, they would have all been on the minimum weight of 50kgs at the handicap.
Still, such warm-up runs can every now and then hatch a surprise in racing.
Of the Kiwi mentor’s team, Sacred Croix is probably the most versatile customer, being equally at home over 1200m as the metric mile. Typical of a late-maturing Savabeel, Sacred Croix pulled off his recent four-in-a-row by steadily progressing from 1200m to 1600m.
And judging from the way he ran through the line at the last win when rising in grade in a Class 3 race over the mile on April 7, Walker seems to have a horse who has all three trips (1400m, 1600m of the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup on June 30 and 1800m of the Group 1 Singapore Derby on July 21) down pat – the perfect 4YO weapon.
“Sacred Croix has had a wonderful prep, he had a two-week break and has been brought back up in pretty good shape since,” said the two-time Singapore champion trainer.
“He’ll be the fresh legs on the scene as he sprints well fresh. The only query is he is 26 points behind Mister Yeoh at the handicap.
“He should be carrying 50kgs, but you never know in racing.”
Walker said his remaining trio of Beau Geste (x Street Cry), Richebourg (x Real Saga) and Elite Remarkable (Argentinian-bred by Sebi Halo) have a less flexible repertoire of distances, but aren’t totally out of their depth either.
“I think Richebourg will be more suited in the second and third Legs. The other horses are a lot sharper than him,” he said.
“Beau Geste (former Godolphin horse) won a nice race at his first start (Class 4 race over 1200m on May 25). In a perfect world, I was looking for a Class 3 race over 1400m, but there was none.
“Hopefully, he still gets on the right leg this Sunday. On his Melbourne form, he can still run some sort of race.
“As for Elite Remarkable, he was a raging bull when he came. We had to geld him before his first run (seventh to likely Silver Bowl favourite Quarter Back) in a Class 2 race over 1200m.
“He’s still trying to acclimatise and I’m still trying to learn about him. Like those Argentinians with Pat Shaw, they seem to take a while to find their mark.
“But he’s had an adequate preparation, and I expect to see some improvement, even if he will also need more ground.”
While regular partner Benny Woodworth stays on Sacred Croix, Walker has booked Ben Thompson on Beau Geste, jockey Zawari Razali back on Richebourg (reuniting after partnering at his first two wins last September) and Juan Paul van der Merwe on Elite Remarkable.
“They’re four different sets of four legs. We’ll see what happens,” said Walker.
“I may also have Augustus and Time Lord for the other Legs. They might just make it but a lot will depend on how the race goes on Sunday, and we’ll go forward from there.”