By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Trainer Cliff Brown made a strong plea for the selection criteria of this year’s earlier Singapore Derby to be more performance-based rather than ratings-based after standby starter Pax Animi scored a smashing win in the $70,000 Class 3 race over 1400m on Friday night.
The Group 1 showpiece over 1800m will be run on April 18, three months earlier than its customary July timing. It came about after the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge, of which the Derby is the third and final Leg, was moved from its June-July timeslot to February-April – a permanent rescheduling moving forward.
A former one-time winner over 1400m at Ballarat, Pax Animi (ex-Cat Raider), who is a four-year-old son of 2008 Victoria Derby winner Rebel Raider, was imported as a Derby prospect halfway through the season last year – way before the new 2020 calendar underwent a major shake-up, which included both its 3YO and 4YO series.
Pax Animi showed his wares right from his first local outing, gunning down a Class 4 Division 1 line-up in a 1200m race on November 17, followed two months later by a flying second when up in grade in a Class 3 race over 1200m on January 17.
Third-up, Pax Animi (Patrick Moloney, $22) – who was incidentally only promoted as a starter after stablemate Filibuster was scratched – presented with the same electric turn of foot to this time slice through the field at the 250m, going on to defeat Adipson (Simon Kok Wei Hoong) by three parts of a length.
Federation (John Powell) lost no friends with a solid third place another three-quarter length away. The winner clocked 1min 22.72secs for the 1400m on the Short Course.
Better was, however, expected from Pax Animi’s three-year-old stablemate Bluestone (Alysha Collett), who never put in a blow despite stalking up race-leader Wecando (Vlad Duric) every step of the way. The son of Hallowed Crown could not muster when the supreme effort was asked from him, though, in his defence, he was tackling stronger opponents this time.
But all honours to the winner, even if Brown felt he was in a race against time to get the gelding into the Derby. After heading into Friday’s race on a rating of 67, he should be closer to the 70-rating mark after the win, but it remains to be seen whether he can gain some more points to qualify for his ultimate target on April 18.
“He’s a really nice horse and he’s a got a lovely turn of foot,” said the Australian horseman.
“He’s a horse who has kept progressing since he’s been here, and Michael Rodd really loves him, but I wish the Derby is not just ratings-based after they moved it from July to April.
“We have only March and April to get him there. It should be based on performance.”
Moloney, who rode Pax Animi at his last-start second, backed Brown’s assessment that the further he goes, the better he will get.
“He’s a really nice horse. Last start he made good use of his turn of foot but the 1200m was too short,” said the Australian jockey who was at a riding double after saluting aboard $70 outsider Amore Amore for Lee Freedman in the $20,000 Open Maiden race over 1400m four races earlier.
“Tonight, he was three back on the fence, which was not ideal, but when the gaps opened, he showed his turn of foot again. He’s a smart horse.
“All he wants to do is relax and switch off, which means once he gets out to more ground, he’ll be even better. He travels and smokes up nicely, they have some nice ammunition with the blinkers on.
“I really appreciate Michael Rodd, who is a good friend of mine. He rode him when he ran in that trial in good fashion, he told me how well he was going.
“Thanks also to Cliffy. He’s given me so many rides, and we’ve finally got a winner together.”
With a record that now reads two wins and one second in three starts, Pax Animi, which means peace of mind in English, has already brought his owners, the Buffalo & Nick Johnston Stable more than $75,000 in prizemoney.