By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Smart mare What’s New proved that her winning feat in the first Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge was no fluke when she doubled up in the second Leg, the $400,000 Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) on Sunday.
The second win deserves even more plaudits given she again beat Sacred Croix into second place, defying all the pre-race talk that had Mark Walker’s charge turning the tables on Cliff Brown’s mare with the extra 200m. Sacred Croix certainly put the writing on the wall in the Silver Bowl when he made stacks of ground to finish only one length astern.
Not to mention that What’s New had this time round drawn a much wider gate than the coveted barrier No 1 in the Silver Bowl three weeks ago.
But the end-result turned out to be a case of deja-vu.
Well ridden by Australian jockey Ben Thompson – taking over from Silver Bowl partner, visiting Adelaide apprentice jockey Raquel Clark – What’s New had half the battle won when she easily overcame her awkward alley to find the fence in the first 200m of the race without spending much petrol.
The early speedmap certainly played a part. Upon dispatch, the majority of the horses on her inside joined the mad rush spearheaded by What’s New’s stablemate Zac Kasa (A’Isisuhairi Kasim), leaving acres of land on the fence, which Thompson gleefully used at his own leisure to drop What’s New nicely onto the rails.
What’s New was effectively in the same economical rails-hugging position, except that she was a few spots further back from the cushy box-seat she enjoyed in the Silver Bowl.
There was, however, no such charmed life for favourite Sacred Croix (Benny Woodworth), who was caught four wide at some stage, albeit with some cover.
Upfront, Zac Kasa was running on fumes upon straightening. Eye Guy (Daniel Moor) drew first blood, but was again one-paced inside the last furlong.
Sacred Croix was not responding to Woodworth’s urgings, and that was when the Silver Bowl-Stewards’ Cup double started to become a real possibility.
Thompson, who had not budged for most of the journey, got busy once a gap between Destroyer Eclipse (Noh Senari) and King Louis (Callan Murray) materialised.
What’s New darted through and kept finding as she bore down towards the finishing line. After taking a month of Sundays to wind up, Sacred Croix let down late to fall short by three-quarter length for the same Silver Bowl quinella.
Mister Yeoh (Michael Rodd) was in the mix throughout the race and lost no marks in taking third place another three-quarter length away.
Sent out at lukewarm odds of $50, What’s New clocked 1min 35.21secs for the metric mile on the Short Course.
As a winner of the first two Legs, What’s New picks up a bonus of $50,000 which will treble up if she completes the clean sweep in the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) on July 21, but Brown was in no rush to head that way yet.
“She just thrived. I was confident again she’d run well,” said Brown.
“Mister Yeoh came on nicely. Michael had to use him to cross, but he ran very well.
“I’m not convinced yet What’s New is a Derby horse. The 1800m might be too long for her.
“She was strong in the end.”
Thompson was notching a third Group win in Singapore, with all three coming for Brown.
The young Australian jockey first made his mark at Kranji when he took out the Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1600m) aboard Mister Yeoh at a hit-and-run visit last November. He then returned for a first one-year contract in 2019, landing the Group 3 Moonbeam Vase (1600m) on Elite Excalibur in May.
But the Victorian, who had girlfriend jockey Stephanie Thornton by his side, modestly played down his part in his terrific run in feature races and Singapore general.
“I’ve been very lucky. A big thank you to Cliff Brown and the entire team, Tim Fitzsimmons, who will train on his own soon, Tony Lane who just joined them, Chris Bock, Sabri and the boys,” said Thompson.
“I’ve always said this mare was a model of consistency. She’s been so well conditioned, she’s a happy horse.
“I was lucky to find the rails and I then just let her switch off. My plan was to let her slide and then she will finish off.
“After she did not get the draw in the Stewards’ Cup, Cliff told me ‘don’t ride her away from her pattern, just ride her neutral’ – and it’s paid off.”
With that sixth win and another seven placings from 16 starts, What’s New has now amassed more than $550,000 for the Tarnpirr Stable, excluding the $50,000 bonus for winning the two Legs.