By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Last year’s 3YO kingpin Top Knight makes his much-awaited racing comeback in the $85,000 Class 2 race over 1200m on Saturday.
After sweeping the last two Legs of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, including the Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) in May, the son of Zoustar was being aimed even higher at the Singapore Triple Crown series when an untimely minor injury setback thwarted those lofty plans.
Top Knight, who should score a landslide victory for the Singapore Three-Year-Old Champion title at the 2019 Racing Appreciation Awards night on February 6, did make a successful comeback as a four-year-old in a Class 2 race over 1400m in August when ridden by Daniel Moor, but it was after that race that inflammation was detected in his off-foreleg.
Five months later, Michael Clements is glad he sidestepped such prestigious riches even though it was such a trivial sprain instead of taking a punt and race through.
“He’s come back stronger. It was only a minor injury – a small sprain to his suspensory – but we decided to back him off and not take any chances,” said Clements.
“Fortunately, the owner was patient. He’s only a young horse and besides, after the 3YO, we felt his break was too short leading up to races like the Raffles Cup.
“He had an enforced layoff in the end and it’s worked out well. He can still run in the Raffles Cup this year.”
Champion jockey Vlad Duric, who boasts a three-from-four record on the Falcon Racing No 7 Stable-owned galloper, will jump back on this Saturday.
The trip is the only slight query if there was ever to be a fly in the ointment.
“His last run was 1400m. I’m just a bit worried the 1200m might be on the short side,” said Clements.
“The last time he raced over 1200m, he ran a narrow second to Bold Thruster (now under his care but then trained by Shane Baertschiger). It was in the first Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge.
“But first-up, he should be okay as he is quite fresh. I’m very pleased with his preparation, and besides, it’s not a particularly strong race.
“It’s also part of his prep to the 4YO series. That means he will have one more run over 1400m in a Class 2 race in a few weeks’ time.”
The Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge and the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge have traded places this year. The younger series used to be at an earlier time slot from March to May and the older one from June to July, but they have been swapped around from 2020.
The 4YO series kicks off even earlier with the Group 3 Silver Bowl (1400m) on February 29 to culminate with the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) on April 18.
Clements also saddles a second runner belonging to the Falcon Stable, who came out on top as the champion owner in 2019 – Japanese-bred five-year-old Quarter Back to be partnered by French jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin.