Duric still has an Eye-in on Raffles Cup

Bold frontrunner Eye Guy (Amirul Ismadi) at his last win at Kranji on March 17.
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Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

With the withdrawals of Blizzard and Nowyousee from this Sunday’s $800,000 Group 1 Raffles Cup (1600m) for veterinary reasons, it’s trainer Michael Clements’ two standby starters Eye Guy and Safeer who find themselves promoted into the line-up.

The non-participation of the Lee Freedman-trained Blizzard in the first Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series does take the gloss off the race a little, more so when it also meant top Melbourne jockey Damian Lane will unfortunately not fly over for the day.

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The Australian, who recently won three Group 1 races in Japan and has never ridden in Singapore, was granted a one-day licence by the Singapore Turf Club to ride at the Raffles Cup meeting after he was booked by Blizzard’s Hong Kong connections to ride the Starcraft eight-year-old in the Raffles Cup itself.

Following the reshuffle, Eye Guy will be ridden by current leading jockey Vlad Duric, who would have otherwise been left without a ride after the Ricardo Le Grange-trained top-rater and 2017 Durban July winner Marinaresco was also pulled out, but before nomination stage, and Safeer will have Benny Woodworth up.

While Safeer on a rating of 78 points is significantly underclass in the weight-for-age race, Eye Guy (85 points) is not far off either, but Clements’ assistant-trainer Michael White said the Joe Singh-owned Bradbury’s Luck five-year-old was not there to fill the gaps.

“We always had the Raffles Cup in mind for Eye Guy. It’s not a last-minute thing,” said the Australian horseman.

“He got a run, he’s a genuine horse even if the mile at weight-for-age will be a big test for him. He still deserves a chance, he’s not there to make up the numbers.

“He’s drawn 16 but barrier isn’t really important for him, he rolls forward and makes his own luck. He’s got Vlad, which is another asset.”

The two-time Singapore champion jockey is aware he would have watched the Raffles Cup, a race he won once with Always Certain in 2011, from the jockeys’ room if not for Blizzard’s scratching.

As the saying goes, you’ve got to be in it to win it, but the Australian jockey couldn’t help but think he could have enjoyed better luck in the run-up.

“First I lost Top Knight after he went amiss. He would have been a big chance,” said Duric who partnered the Clements’ rising star at his Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge campaign in which he won the last two Legs, including the Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m).

“Then I was down to ride Marinaresco, and he also went amiss. Eye Guy only came up after Blizzard was out, or else I would have had no ride.

“It’s going to be tough for him at weight-for-age and that wide gate doesn’t help either. But he’s a decent horse, he’s got gate speed and we’ll go forward.”

Clements’ – and Singh’s – stable banner remains Countofmontecristo, who won the Group 2 Merlion Trophy (1200m) at his last start on August 25, and is likely to start favourite on Sunday. He will be ridden by comeback jockey and former three-time Singapore champion jockey Manoel Nunes.