By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Four winners would be a good day at the office for any trainer on any given day, but Michael Clements was still having a hollow feeling after he pulled off such a feat. He had missed out on the highlight of the day, the Kranji Mile.
With Tuesday, Mardoona and Resolution bringing up an early treble for the in-form yard, Clements was warming up nicely for the $1 million Group 1 race over the mile, especially as he was responsible for nearly a third of the 16-horse field with five runners, including favourite Countofmontecristo.
But in the end, it was trainer Shane Baertschiger’s Aramaayo who stole the thunder. Countofmontecristo was being hailed the winner when he rolled forward at the top of the straight, but could not stave the winner off inside the last furlong, even losing second place to stablemate Top Knight by a short head.
Siam Blue Vanda, On Line and Safeer finished sixth, seventh and 10th respectively.
Clements eventually picked up his four-timer with Heartening Flyer in the Lucky Last, the $75,000 Really Good 2005 Stakes Novice over 1200m. It was one of those spectacular last-gasp wins that can pump up your adrenaline so much you can shake off any blues you might have had, but Clements was still as level-headed as possible, even when doing the performance appraisal of his Kranji Mile runners.
“Count had every chance, even if I think he went a bit early in the straight,” said the Zimbabwean-born naturalised Singaporean.
“The winner came from behind us, but in all fairness, Count ran his heart out. It was just not meant to be his day today.
“Top Knight went really great. I was pretty confident he would step up to the mark. He finished strongly, he’s a genuine horse and was back to his best.
“I rated him and Siam Blue Vanda equally, but things didn’t go Siam Blue Vanda’s way today. He didn’t get the run we wanted.
“He got way back and was disappointing, but in saying this, all my horses ran fairly, including On Line and Safeer.
“On Line may be lowly-rated, but he was in the firing line together with Siam Blue Vanda. From the very beginning, things have not gone the way of Safeer.
“He dropped back and was one-paced to the line.”
So, things have not quite gone to script for Clements in the big race, but that storming run by Heartening Flyer under Louis-Philippe Beuzelin (who rode Countofmontecristo) from an untenable position in the last race to keep his unbeaten record going (two-from-two) has indeed brought some warmth to the heart.
Last-start debut winner Savvy Command (Hakim Kamaruddin) looked to have the race all stitched up when he rallied up on the rails to poke his head in front from four or five runners spread across the track, but Heartening Flyer ($14 favourite), a New Zealand-bred four-year-old entire by Excelebration, gathered all of them in on the outside to record a neck-win in the shadows of the post.
Savvy Command held on valiantly for second place with Brutus (Ruan Maia) sticking on for third place another three parts of a length away. The winning time was 1min 9.81secs for the 1200m on the Short Course on turf.
“He won a very strong race today. To finish off like that is evident of a progressive horse,” said Clements.
“He was outpaced early and couldn’t go with the early pace. Louis got to work on him pretty early.
“He then showed a powerful turn of foot to motor home for the win. On the way he runs, he will get further.
“I will run him over 1400m at his next start and see how he comes along. I may set him for the 1400m Leg of the new 3YO series in which he now qualifies, but we’ll see.”
Clements was referring to the newly-created Group 2 Singapore Classic (1400m) in two weeks’ time on August 30, slated as the second Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, which is now open to Southern Hemisphere-bred four-year-olds in order to keep the series alive after COVID-19 struck and put racing by the wayside for three months.
Following the big haul, Clements has chipped away at Mark Walker’s lead, reducing the margin from five to three after the New Zealand mentor saddled a double (Sportscaster and Afalonhro). The reigning Singapore champion trainer leads on 33 winners while Clements sits in second place on 30 winners.