Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
The $175,000 Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes (1200m) did not hatch any surprise on Sunday, just the hot fireball many had predicted would be ignited in the home straight – boom three-year-old Inferno who extended his unbeaten run to a fourth win in commanding style yet again.
Sent out at unbackable odds of $6, the son of Holy Roman Emperor was straight into the zone and on the bridle when regular partner Michael Rodd slotted him into a perfect midfield vantage point, keeping an eye on proceedings in and around him.
The pace set by Qiji Acheeva (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) was only moderate, but Inferno didn’t seem to be fazed whichever way the tempo was tuned.
He was always travelling like a winner, ready to explode on cue. One could almost imagine Rodd chuckling to himself as he slipped more reins upon straightening – this looked way too easy.
Inferno indeed swept past with consummate ease to set sail for the winning post, ducking back to the rails as he is inclined to do when he careers away off his signature sizzling sprint.
But the backmarkers, who this time comprised some gun three-year-olds like the unbeaten Field Marshal (Ben Thompson), stablemate Bluestone (William Pike), Celavi (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) or Rocket Star (Barend Vorster) looked to have been caught on the backfoot.
This year’s equally talented juvenile Big Hearted (Vlad Duric) did warm up to the task late, but it was only an optical illusion as Rodd had already eased down on Inferno.
Kranji’s most exciting prospect went on to post a 1 ¾ length-win from Big Hearted with Rocket Star running on when it was all over to take third place another head away. The winning time was 1min 9.36secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.
Winning trainer Cliff Brown was as usual keeping a lid on any excessive jubilation or hyperbole after the win, although it may become increasingly harder to keep ignoring the fact he may well have the heir apparent of his former champion Debt Collector in his barn.
“I’ve trained a few good horses like Debt Collector. To win five Group 1s, you can’t be average to do that,” said the Australian handler.
“Zac Spirit (champion sprinter and Lion City Cup winner) was another good horse. This guy (Inferno) is an exciting horse, he’s on the right way, but he’s still got a long way to go.
“It was really good, we enjoyed that. He wants 1400m now.
“Obviously, we were all a little nervous but we’re very pleased he won, and always relieved when it comes off.
“It’s always a team effort. We have the good ones and the slow ones, but that’s what it’s all about, especially for staff who has been with me for a long time.
“Credit must also go to Chris Bock who is the one who bought Inferno. Chris has been with me a long time, 23 years, he’s like my brother.
“I talk to him all the time. A lot of things have to get past him, Chris is pivotal to the buying of horses and the success of the stable.
“He and my wife Jo are the level-headed people in my life. I am the extreme one!”
Brown was of course not referring to his subdued celebratory style, but Rodd, who though not the flamboyant sort, would in comparison seem to be doing cartwheels at the winner’s circle.
On Wednesday, wife Cara gave birth to their second child, Chloe, a second daughter after Lila who is three. Shortly after, Rodd flew to Rockhampton, Queensland, to welcome the new bundle of joy before riding Debt Agent (new name for Debt Collector in Australia) in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Saturday, hence him missing Kranji’s meeting on Friday.
Unfortunately, his old boy did not bring him much joy after he beat one home in the Mackinnon which was won by Magic Wand (Ryan Moore) for Aidan O’Brien, but all in all, it’s still been a memorable week for the popular Australian jockey.
Jockey Michael Rodd, owner Glenn Whittenbury and trainer Cliff Brown celebrate Inferno’s victory.
“I’m flying back to Australia at 9.30pm later to be with my family again, so there won’t be any drinks to celebrate tonight, but this horse is great,” said Rodd who wrapped up the Dester Singapore Gold Cup (in which he had no ride) bumper meeting with a heart-stopping win aboard Hardcore ($31) in the concluding event, the $50,000 Ocean Park Stakes, a Class 4 race over 1400m to ring up a riding double.
“He gave me a painless ride right through. Usually he fires up at the start, but today, he was not the quickest out and I had to give him a squeeze as I didn’t want to be too far away.
“It’s remarkable how you can get two runs from him. I actually didn’t want him to be that close and be in amongst them.
“Still, he was travelling so well, he was so relaxed, switching off all by himself. In the straight, he went towards the fence again and was probably looking at something on the other side of the fence.
“That’s why I would like to one day test him and let him chase something else instead.”
That can only be explored next year as both Inferno and stablemate Bluestone, who ran fifth under Perth champion jockey William Pike, will go for a well-deserved break.
“Both horses are going for a break and will come back for the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge next year,” Brown confirmed.
As for Field Marshal, the charmed run has ended rather limply. Much better was expected from the New Zealand-bred son of Sweet Orange, but the chestnut looked rather flat when Thompson called upon him in the home straight, staying one-paced to finish sixth around five lengths off Inferno.
Inferno, who had owner Glenn Whittenbury on hand for that fourth win and second Group win after the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) for two-year-olds in July, has now stretched his record to four-from-four for stakes money closing in on the $300,000 mark for the Barree Stable