By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
The bubble has burst after Inferno lost his shield of invincibility to Siam Warrior in the $70,000 Super Easy 2013 Stakes, a Class 3 race over 1200m on Saturday.
Unbeaten in four previous starts, including in the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) and Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes (1200m), Inferno was all the rage to keep his winning streak blazing on at his racing comeback (not sighted since the Saas Fee Stakes in November), but Siam Warrior had other ideas.
The James Peters-trained sprinter was himself bidding for a mini record of his own – a third win on the trot, but most thought it would be the Middle Kingdom Stable’s on-pace runner who would finish second-best this time, especially from the sticky alley.
They couldn’t have been more wrong. Siam Warrior (Vlad Duric, $33) made his own luck by rolling to the front from his wide gate, and while Inferno (Michael Rodd) did look like he would keep his unblemished record intact when he arrived down the middle of the track, that signature turn of foot lacked its usual lethalness this time.
Siam Warrior has no rear view mirror. He just kept pressing on without flinching on his way to claiming the famous scalp of one of the most hyped horses at Kranji. The winning margin was 1 ¾-lengths with roughie Dinghu Mountain (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) the surprise beneficiary of the third prize another two lengths away.
Kranji was shellshocked. They had just been blindsided by a giant-killing act they had not seen coming.
Granted, Nationality’s (Iskandar Rosman) exaggerated drift on the swing carted Inferno even further out – which probably added one length or two to the gap to bridge – but truth be told, the champ had been beaten fair and square.
And Peters had a hunch the horse who had been his pillar of strength this season (scored two of his three wins prior to Saturday) could well be the gatecrasher should Inferno falter.
“The horse was flying. In the last three to four months, he has really turned the corner,” said the English trainer who was saddling a double after Overcoming (Michael Rodd, $21) kicked off proceedings in the $30,000 What’s New 2019 Stakes, a Class 5 Division 1 race over 1200m.
“He’s been looking well in his coat. He’s so fast and he is improving every time.
“Vlad dictated on him and when he kicked at the top of the straight, Inferno had to be really good to catch him.
“When he arrived at our stable, we thought he’d be a nice horse, but nothing outstanding. Sometimes it takes a whole prep to get to that level.
“Hopefully, he can continue that way. He’s got a good group of owners.”
Formerly prepared by James Cummings in Sydney for the mighty Godolphin Stable, Siam Warrior (then known as Siam) was purchased by Jayven See of Middle Kingdom Stable as a two-time winner over 1200m. The Exceed And Excel five-year-old has now bagged four local wins, one second and one third from 13 starts at Kranji for stakes earnings fast approaching the $150,000 mark.
The win also capped a remarkable week for See, who just last Saturday saw his part-owned Tagaloa (he and Ultima Racing own a 10% share in him) win the prestigious Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield. One week later, it was not just Siam Warrior who brought more reasons to smile.
“Siam Warrior’s sectionals were exceptional. I’m surprised he did it with 57.5kgs on his back,” said See.
“To top it off, my wife Kathy’s The Odyssey also won at Doomben in Brisbane (Australia) today!”
As for Duric, he revealed that the go-forward strategy was totally off the cuff.
“I didn’t really have a plan. From barrier 11, I thought there was speed in the race and the field would stretch out, we would then sit in fourth or fifth,” said the three-time Singapore champion jockey.
“I spoke with James before the race and we went in with an open mind, but the horse broke so well that I just led.
“We had plenty of time to work across and control the race. At the top of the straight, I thought geez, Inferno is a good horse and I was expecting him to finish over the top of us.
“But when I looked over my shoulder, I saw we were well clear. I had no idea what happened behind (Inferno got pushed out wider), I just rode my horse to the line.
“I think they’ve got the right horse to win in open class with the right weight. He will become a good handicap horse.”
Interestingly, Duric got a first-hand feel of Inferno’s engine during the week, sitting aboard at a hit-out down the back. He jumped off suitably impressed, but even after Cliff Brown’s rising star was defeated, he cautioned not to write him off too soon.
“Michael (Rodd) was away during the week and I helped him out by galloping Inferno on Tuesday. The horse is a machine,” he said.
“But in saying this, it’s not easy for those three-year-olds when they race against older horses. I was in the same situation on Rocket Star last night when he could not catch the winner (Yaya Papaya).”