By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Progressive US-bred galloper Minister again showed his boundless will to win by claiming the $85,000 Waikato 2009 Stakes Class 2 race over 1600m on Sunday.
Time and again, the Street Sense four-year-old has looked on the ropes when his lead comes under heavy fire, especially inside the last 400m, but he has always held sway.
Backed down to $13 favouritism, Minister with A’Isisuhairi Kasim up for the second time following their first winning partnership last time out, didn’t dictate terms this time. They began well from their low draw, but A’Isisuhairi was quite content to opt for a cosy journey in the box-seat when Time Lord (Koh Teck Huat) whipped around to take up the running.
Having not spent a penny tucked away in his cosy spot, Minister was quick to take over the baton upon straightening. If there were to be any challenges this time, it came as friendly fire from stablemate Ocean Crossing (Simon Kok Wei Hoong), who just like Minister was rising in grade, and had nothing on their back.
Ocean Crossing (x All Too Hard), who was ridden positive from his wide alley to take up a handy berth on Time Lord’s outside, gave his all in the home straight, but Minister just doesn’t get passed once he hits the front. One length split the duo in the end, but the same reward rejoins them – a ticket to the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) on September 6.
“Minister is a pretty smart horse. He’s improving with each run,” said Freedman after the Thai King Power Stable-owned middle-distance performer racked up his third win in a row from four Kranji starts for more than $120,000 in prizemoney.
“Today, he also ran a class record (1min 34secs, 0.03 second better than Yulong Edition), and this augurs well for the Derby.
“The runner-up will also run in the Derby. It was a solid effort as he was jumping from Class 3.
“I was looking for a Class 3 race, but then I thought why not test him at Class 2 level and he’s run very well, and got a Derby ticket, too.”
The emerging Freedman-A’Isisuhairi combination gained further traction when they grabbed a race-to-race double with Mr Alejandro ($15) in the $50,000 Top Spin 2008 Stakes Class 4 Division 1 race over 1400m.
From Freedman’s eight winners since racing resumed on July 11, Mr Alejandro was the fifth earned in combination with the former two-time Singapore champion apprentice jockey.
There were no prizes for guessing who is riding Minister in the Singapore Derby.
“There is no Minister without Harry,” Freedman quipped.
While it was smiles all round in the Freedman camp, others may have to go back to the drawing board following the runs of their charges, especially the much-hyped Pax Animi, also a Singapore Derby hopeful, and last year’s Raffles Cup winner Makanani.
Pax Animi (Juan Paul van der Merwe) was ridden quietly at the rear, albeit in a three-wide spot without cover, but with only 50.5kgs on his back, he could not unleash his trademark turn of foot to run fifth, three lengths off Minister.
Makanani (Marc Lerner) had every chance with a smothered run in sixth place, but dropped right out of the race from the 300m mark to run seventh, close to eight lengths off the winner.