Kok’s 2YO draws out, harder to Count on

Count Me In (Mohd Zaki) at his debut win on June 30.
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Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

Many were taken by Showcasing two-year-old Count Me In’s debut win three weeks ago, including trainer David Kok, but the horror gate in Friday’s $250,000 Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) has put a major dent in the camp’s confidence.

The colt has drawn 16 from 18 (likely to drop to 14 after scratchings), clearly not the best spot to break from for a horse who showed an abundance of speed at his first Kranji run when only Try Mak Mak proved faster and led. Count Me In eased off into the box-seat before powering home.

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From Day 1, Kok had a good hunch he had a smart sort under the roof. The fifth and final Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series would be a good race to aim for Count Me In if he performs to expectations.

It was quickly locked away after the debut win, even if Kok and Mauritian owner Stephen Tin of Blue Ocean Stable knew full well the Aushorse Golden Horseshoe opposition would be exponentially tougher in a year that has seen a host of exciting juveniles popping out of the nursery.

But the odds have slimmed down even further after luck deserted them at the draw. Kok, who also saddles Achieved More, a worthy debut second to another Aushorse contender Hotshots Slam, can now only “count” on his charge’s raw ability to defy those drawbacks.

“Count Me In has improved from his debut win, but it’s a very strong field this time. Some of them have three times more experience,” said Kok.

“The outside gate is not good at all. I was hoping for a good draw, the draw is very important in such big fields (16) in a 1200m race.”

Kok would know from past experience. Last year, he saddled one of the better-fancied juveniles in the Aushorse Golden Horseshoe, Autumn Assault (recently transferred to Steven Burridge), but a sticky barrier coupled with an awkward jump saw him caught three wide throughout before wilting to an unplaced finish behind the winner Lim’s Lightning.

“Last year, I had a good two-year-old in Autumn Assault. I’ve always liked two-year-olds as I feel the good ones go on to become better horses later,” he said.

“Unfortunately, Autumn Assault was beaten by the gate in the Group 2 race. He’s a very nice horse, and I remember I had a few other handy two-year-olds before.

“Count Me In is another smart one, but it’ll be tough for him on Friday, even if I know his condition has improved.

“He trialled well with Benny (Woodworth) last week. Benny was very happy with the trial.

“He’s done all the work on Count Me In as he knows the owner well from his riding days in Mauritius. He will finally get to ride the horse on Friday.”

The 50kgs handed as a two-year-old in a Restricted Maiden race ruled the in-form Malaysian jockey out at the first-up run. It was Mohd Zaki who picked up the glory.

“The horse has improved after his first win,” said Woodworth.

“I liked his trial. Let’s hope he measures up in the big race.”