Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
The Hideyuki Takaoka-Marc Lerner combination gained further traction after they brought up a weekend double with Caribbean Lady on Sunday.
On Friday night, the pairing, which began to team up on a more frequent basis at the beginning of the year, rang up their eighth 2019 win together with Takaoka’s banner mare Makanani in a Class 1 race over 1600m.
Two days later, they celebrated a second winner for the weekend in the $50,000 Class 4 race over 1600m on Polytrack with another mare, the well-backed Caribbean Lady ($19), who is by Fastnet Rock sire Your Song and out of a US-bred mare formerly trained by Takaoka, Caribbean Moon.
Utilising barrier No 2 to good effect with a smart getaway, the previous one-time winner (start to finish in a Class 4 race over 1600m in April) raced to the head of the pack, but Life Is Gamble (A’Isisuhairi Kasim), who jumped from barrier No 1, had the same designs.
Lerner wisely decided to take a drop into second place, a half-body in arrears, while keeping the race-leader in their sights.
Turning for the judge, the two early pacemakers were still making play. The swoopers were throttling up into overdrive in a bid to bridge the gap, but to no avail as it would turn out.
Favourite Implement (Daniel Moor) and Awesome (Wong Chin Chuen) momentarily looked the goods as they spearheaded that last cavalry charge, but they were soon clutching at straws, as were the others.
Splitting away from the whole kit and caboodle, Life Is Gamble and Caribbean Lady were well clear at the 200m, and showing no intentions of giving up their best seats, paving the way for a stirring two-horse war inside the last 300m.
Caribbean Lady had poked her head in front by the furlong pole, but Life Is Gamble was steadfastly punching his way back along the rails, giving the impression he could turn the tables back on Takaoka’s mare.
Lerner, who lifted Makanani home in a close finish on Friday, may not have the brutest of strengths at Kranji, but again showcased his trademark Gallic poise and flair in a ding-dong battle, extracting the last drops of petrol from Caribbean Lady to stave Life Is Gamble off by 0.5 length on the line.
As could be surmised from the way that leader-biased race was shaping up, it was daylight behind. Absolute Miracle (Callan Murray) snared the battle for third place, another 4 ¾ lengths away, half-a-length ahead of Implement. The winning time was 1min 39.93secs for the Polytrack mile.
Takaoka was his phlegmatic self at the winner’s stall as he rounded up his first dozen for the season. After a 2019 season in fits and starts, the Japanese trainer has slowly been climbing his way up the ladder to now sit in 18th spot.
“Caribbean Lady is quite a straightforward mare to train. I also trained her mother who was not a bad mare,” said Takaoka who has over the years built up a solid reputation as a conditioner of gallopers of the said fairer sex.
“Today, I left it to Marc on how to ride her, but she had to be up with the pace from the good draw (two).
“Marc did the right thing to test the leader early. It was a nice win.”
Lerner, who was recording his 19th win, said the penny has not fully dropped for the Australian-bred mare racing in the same colours as Takaoka’s former champion mare Better Life (Suzuka Racing Stable).
“She is a consistent horse. She ran second (to Magnificent Gold) with me two starts back, and she just repeated that performance today,” said the former German-based hoop.
“She is still not 100% focused. She will improve with more racing.
“The pace was slow and we kicked at the 600m, the others were left flat-footed. They could not make ground on us.”
Caribbean Lady has now established a record of two wins, two seconds and two thirds from 12 starts for stakes money in excess of $85,000 for the Suzuka Racing Stable.