By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Champion jockey Vlad Duric said he was never confronted with having to make a choice between Michael Clements’ leading duo of Top Knight and Bold Thruster in the $175,000 Group 3 Silver Bowl (1400m) this Saturday.
To him, Top Knight was always the clear pick from the day he got on at his first race as a three-year-old last year. Already a winner of three races then, the son of Zoustar went on to claim the last two Legs of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge under Duric, ultimately earning him the Singapore champion three-year-old award.
Granted, Duric has not won again on the Falcon Racing No 7 Stable star, finding one better at his two 2020 outings in Class 2 company, while he has scored twice on Bold Thruster – including the Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1400m) on January 26 in the interim, but even then, jumping ship never crossed the Australian jockey’s mind.
“Top Knight has always been my horse. I’m very lucky (Falcon owner) Krit (Chittaseni) has made him my horse to ride through,” said Duric.
“I’ve never won the Derby probably because I’ve not been on the right horse. The closest I came to was a fourth on Jabal Tarik (to Jolie’s Shinju) in 2009 and then a second on Elite Invincible to Jupiter Gold in 2018.
“Top Knight is probably my best chance throughout the whole 4YO series.
“He didn’t like the wet track at the handicap at his last start (nose second to Aramaayo in the RDA Cup, a Class 2 race over 1400m). It made it more difficult for him.
“He will be at set weights against four-year-olds this time (in the Silver Bowl). The 1400m is still on the sharp side as I think he’s more of a 1600m-1800m horse.
“The Singapore Derby (on April 18) is his grand final, but I think he’ll still be very hard to beat in all three Legs. He is the benchmark.
“He’s, however, a horse who doesn’t put himself in a race. You can’t rush him to get into his rhythm, you need a bit of luck.
“On the other hand, providing Bold Thruster jumps out of the barriers, he will be up on the speed, he puts himself in a race.”
Besides Top Knight, Duric has singled out impressive last-start winner Rocket Star as his other leading chance over the weekend. After guiding Ricardo Le Grange’s Star Witness three-year-old to an emphatic first-up win in a Class 4 race over 1400m, Duric is looking forward to seeing what he does next in Friday night’s $50,000 Class 4 race over the mile.
“Rocket Star’s trackwork on Monday was very good. He felt really good within himself and pulled up good,” said Duric.
“He trialled okay last week (February 20 when beating stablemate Water Rocket). He trialled like a horse looking for a mile.
“I think Ricardo has placed him very well, just stepping him up towards his pet distance. I think he’s still underclass in Class 4.
“Inferno is the benchmark and will be hard to beat in the 3YO series, but Rocket Star is also a very brilliant horse.”