By Michael Lee
Trainer Michael Clements is hoping his rich vein of form in the 3YO series flows into the 4YO equivalent which kicks off with the $175,000 Group 3 Silver Bowl (1400m) this Sunday.
The Zimbabwean-born handler asserted his superiority in the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge yet again this year with Top Knight coming close to the clean sweep, missing out by a whisker to Bold Thruster in the first Leg, the Group 3 Singapore Three-year-Old Sprint (1200m) before making no mistake in the last two Legs, the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) and the Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m).
Two weeks later, Clements is all primed to launch his 4YO warriors onto the battlefield. Unlike the 3YO series where he had a pool of four to five to mix and match (he also had Siam Vipasiri, Siam Blue Vanda, Vittoria Perfetta and Siam Royal Orchid), he is sticking to a threesome right through this time – Quarter Back, Eye Guy and Eagle Eye.
Spearheading the charge is the upwardly-mobile Quarter Back, who races in the same sky blue colours of Top Knight’s Thai outfit Falcon Racing Stable, but Clements is definitely not losing sight of the two “Eyes”, the other Thai-owned runner, Eagle Eye (Kajorn Petch Racing Stable, 2017 Singapore Horse of the Year Infantry’s owner), and especially the Joe Singh-owned Eye Guy.
A Japanese-bred by Empire Maker, Quarter Back was simply sensational at his slashing win first-up from a two-month layoff in a Class 2 race over 1200m on May 10. Apprentice jockey Wong Chin Chuen rode him that day as he was weighted at 51kgs.
No doubt the postage-stamp load gave him wings that day when he came flying past stablemate Gingerella, but even at level weights, Clements is confident he will be just as competitive. In that same race, Eagle Eye was also well-backed following a previous solid win in a Polytrack race over 1100m, but his finish lacked bite (eighth around five and a half lengths away) on turf.
“Quarter Back won at his last start in pretty good style. He has improved since that last run,” said Clements.
“He will have Vlad Duric on his back and he’s likely to start as one of the favourites. I’m really pleased with him.
“Eye Guy is improving all the time. He goes good over 1400m even if going on his run in the Moonbeam Vase, he is probably best over the mile.
“Whilst I expect him to go well, I think he’ll find it harder at level weights. Still, he trialled very well last week (four-and-a-half length winner over Be Bee, another Silver Bowl contender) and is in very good form.”
Australian jockey Daniel Moor was the one who steered the son of Bradbury’s Luck towards that trial romp that day, and will stay on this Sunday.
“He trialled very well on May 30, he won his trial easily,” said Moor.
“He’s a lovely big striding horse with a great action and a good attitude. He’s a progressive horse, and that puts him in good stead against those good horses.
“I think he’s heading for better races.”
Clements is aware Eagle Eye has a penchant for Polytrack, but still believes the son of Pure Prize is not all that hopeless on turf.
“I haven’t had Eagle Eye (previously with trainer Ricardo Le Grange) for long, but so far, he’s been more of a Polytrack horse,” he said.
“Typical of those horses from South America, he may well be better suited over Polytrack, but I’m happy with the way he’s going and I hope he can run well this Sunday.”
Back-from-suspension Perth jockey Joseph Azzopardi takes the ride on Eagle Eye for the first time.
Unlike his Singapore Guineas quintet who all drew off the track bar Siam Vipasiri (middle), Clements had better luck at the barriers this time. The trio will jump side by side with Quarter Back in four, Eagle Eye in five and Eye Guy in six, clearly a much more distinct advantage than in a mile race.