By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
For a self-proclaimed “world’s worst trainer of two-year-olds”, trainer Cliff Brown has not done a bad job in saddling Inferno to a resounding win in the $75,000 Magic Millions 2YOs in Training Sale Stakes (1200m) on Sunday.
A few days leading to the son of Holy Roman Emperor making his Kranji debut in the fourth Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series for two-year-olds, the self-effacing Australian handler had no qualms in tagging himself with the unenviable title to the media.
Brown was obviously being a little too harsh on himself. The multiple Group 1-winning trainer’s record with babies at Kranji might not be as flash as with older horses, but typical of his self-deprecating humour, he was just injecting a bit of hyperbole.
The likes of Deimos and Augustano might not have set Kranji alight, but they certainly didn’t disgrace themselves as two-year-olds.
But the real commendable quality that came through Brown’s candid confession was not so much his modesty, but his admission you never stop learning in this trade.
Brown said he picked the brains of ex-jockey Danny Beasley and fellow Victorian trainer Jim Conlan (who takes over the training of his champion Debt Collector very soon) in order to work on his so-called weakness.
The way Inferno came like a thunderbolt inside the last 300m to blow his 11 rivals away on Sunday sent two clear messages. Brown is as quick a learner as he is a bad judge of himself.
With Michael Rodd astride, Inferno ($36), who races in the same pink colours as Victorian outfit Barree Stable-owned Debt Collector, looked unstoppable when he came storming onto the scene with a blistering run at the 300m. Though still green and laying in under pressure, he easily gobbled up his peers before pulling away to a most dominant debut win.
Ridden for luck at the rear after breaking from an awkward alley, favourite Rocket Star (Callan Murray) put in the big bounds once he was in the clear, but the bird had already flown.
The winning margin was two lengths with Beer Garden (John Powell) third another 1 ¾ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 10.57secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.
“He’s a lovely ready-made horse. Credit to (racing manager) Chris Bock for choosing this horse,” said Brown.
“Chris actually rang me before he bought him. He told me I had to buy that one, and it’s good of Glenn (Whittenbury of Barree Stable) to have bought him. From Day 1, we knew he was very good.
“We’re looking at the Group 2 race (the final Leg, the Aushorse Golden Horseshoe over 1200m on July 19) but he has to go home and not get shinsore.”
Rodd said that Inferno was not a stereotypical two-year-old, and even if the win was recorded in devastating style, he still had to earn his stripes in stiffer tests down the road.
“Not many two-year-olds are like him. He’s big and rangy,” said the Australian hoop.
“He was three wide and I was happy to hold him up there as there was some scrimmage in front of me, but once he got an uninterrupted run, he showed an amazing turn of foot.
“It’s normally not what two-year-olds do, but there were some unlucky horses as well. Callan’s horse (Rocket Star) didn’t get a clear run and that Falcon Racing horse (Pattaya) didn’t have much room either, but we did.”