By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Steve Levar has a good hunch about King Louis peaking at the right time for this Sunday’s $800,000 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m).
The director of iRace Media and former Singapore Turf Club race caller concedes that the Medaglia d’Oro five-year-old had not enjoyed the best of luck this prep, but going on his last run and the way he has thrived on the training tracks, the second Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series might have come at the right time, even if the Holy Grail still remains the third Leg, the Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) on November 10.
Levar said that last year’s El Dorado Classic winner was a “victim of circumstances” in this year’s renewal of the traditional Gold Cup prelude, run over 2000m on September 20, when he was not suited by the dawdling pace, but still ran a cracker to finish third to I’m Incredible.
With the one-kilo turnaround between the two horses, the Australian owner reckoned it might just give his horse the edge in the QEII Cup, but is still mindful of the rest of the opposition.
“They walked in the El Dorado. We were a victim of a race run at a pedestrian pace and it was virtually impossible for King Louis to win when the leader (I’m Incredible) walked upfront and turned it into a sprint home,” said Levar.
“We thought Star Jack would lead, but it was I’m Incredible who led and we let him dictate. We walked away disappointed but we were still happy with his run considering the race didn’t suit him.
“He’s come on since that run, he’s worked brilliantly. His track gallop this morning was outstanding, he did the last 600m in 34.9 on the bit.”
To Levar, the rot had set in in the Group 3 Moonbeam Vase (1600m) back in May when his saddle slipped under Glen Boss, and he got checked badly several times. Somehow, things have turned pear-shaped since, but he feels the tide has finally turned.
“King Louis’ whole season went sideways when he struck severe interference in the Moonbeam Vase. It’s taken him quite some time to get back on track,” he said.
“He was also touch-and-go before the Derby, but he ran a massive third.
“His last three runs have actually indicated that he was coming back to form and his trackwork in the lead-up to this Sunday indicates that he is peaking at the right time of the year.
“On his gallop today, I’m confident of a forward showing, he’s the best I’ve seen him all year, to be honest. He’s at the same form he was last year when he won the El Dorado.
“He’s one-kilo better off for a length defeat to I’m Incredible in this year’s El Dorado. He would be a genuine chance to turn the tables on I’m Incredible.
“If it rains, I think he will also appreciate a bit of sting out of the ground. He can even handle a bog track.
“Willie Pike is back and I can tell you he’s keen to keep at it. It’s a great pleasure to have a jockey such as Willie in the saddle again on Sunday; not only is he a champion jockey, but he is also a gentleman and the ultimate professional.
“I actually discussed with Willie after the El Dorado about putting the blinkers back on.
“It was always our intention to put them back on in the Gold Cup, but Willie said let’s do it over 1800m as it might just let him settle closer.”
While the 11-time Perth champion hoop had long been pencilled in to partner King Louis right through the Triple Crown series, Levar took this opportunity to express his gratitude to another jockey for doing all the hard yards at home.
“I’m thankful to Daniel Moor for doing all the trackwork on King Louis. Dan gives me great feedback on him,” he said.
“Unfortunately, I had already promised Willie he would ride King Louis right through, but you never know what weight he will get in the Gold Cup. It will depend on how he runs this Sunday as well.”
Pike goes to scale at 54kgs while Moor is a natural lightweight who can waste down to the minimum weight of 50kgs. The Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) is the only race of the three Legs of the Triple Crown set at handicap conditions.
Levar, who has raced several high quality horses is looking at expanding his Royalty Racing Stable base from next year.
“Racing in Singapore is looking exciting with the host of changes brought about. I think more Saturday races will be great for us,” said Levar.
“The prizemoney is still one of the best in the world. I myself have bought two nice horses for next year, a four-year-old by Smart Missile and a three-year-old filly who just ran in a Group 1 race in Australia.
“They both arrive next week. We have high expectations of them competing at the highest level in Singapore.
“Until then, nothing would please me more to see King Louis win a Group 1 race. It’s something missing on his sideboard and mine!
“If you take a line through Makanani winning the Raffles Cup, King Louis beat her a few times, like in last year’s El Dorado. So, I think he’s highly deserving of a Group 1 win.”