By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
After a closing second in the Group 3 Silver Bowl three weeks ago, Sacred Croix will be bidding to go one better in the $400,000 Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) on Sunday.
The inaugural Silver Bowl (1400m) is the new first Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge, replacing the Stewards’ Cup, which has been lengthened up to a mile and is now slated as the second Leg towards the grand final the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) on July 21.
A son of Savabeel, Sacred Croix came with a searching run under regular partner Benny Woodworth in the Silver Bowl, but Cliff Brown’s mare What’s New (Raquel Clark) had the first run and prevailed till the end.
With the weights left at the same level pegging given the similar set weights conditions of the 4YO series, champion trainer Mark Walker will be banking on the extra furlong for Sacred Croix to turn the tables instead, not to mention What’s New has drawn off the track in 14 as opposed to marble one at the Silver Bowl triumph.
Walker maintained that the opposition was still tough, even if he is well aware that his ward would probably figure among the market leaders.
“Sacred Croix will be better suited by the mile. He can go even further, up to 2000m, he’s a Gold Cup horse,” said the Kiwi mentor.
“He’s a nice progressive horse who has pulled up well after his last race and has been working in good order since.
“He galloped this morning and went very well under Zawari (Razali). He’s a clean-winded horse who doesn’t take a lot of work.”
Walker has also thrown in Elite Remarkable and Richebourg in the Stewards’ Cup mix even if they didn’t take a major part in the Silver Bowl. Argentinian-bred stayer Elite Remarkable was at only his second start and weakened to finish at the rear while Richebourg fared a touch better in 12th place.
To their handler, they will both have to lift substantially to be of any sort of chance on Sunday – and even beyond from a Derby viewpoint.
“I’ll put visors on Elite Remarkable this Sunday. He does need to improve in order to be competitive,” said Walker.
“I think he still needs to acclimatise. Azhar Ismail will ride him and I hope he runs a better race.
“As for Richebourg, he’s an Emergency Acceptor. If he gets a spot, he also needs to improve on his last run – he’s better suited to distance, but he was well back in the Silver Bowl.
“If he doesn’t get a run, there is a Class 3 race over the mile next Friday.”
Juan Paul van der Merwe rode Elite Remarkable in the Silver Bowl, but has now switched to Richebourg while it is Malaysian veteran jockey Azhar Ismail who will ride Elite Remarkable.
“All three horses are well, but obviously, Sacred Croix is my best chance,” said Walker who won last year’s Stewards’ Cup with Elite Invincible, but has yet to annex a Singapore Derby to his resume – not even a New Zealand Derby, one of the rare New Zealand Group 1 races still missing to his glittering resume.
“He has drawn moderately (in 10). It’s a full field, and the barrier is always important in such a race.
“Hopefully, Benny can get him into a nice position in the race.”