By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Inferno is to many the horse to beat in this Sunday’s $250,000 Group 2 Singapore Classic (1400m) but trainer Cliff Brown said that it will still be his biggest test to-date.
The Australian puts forward the trip and to a lesser extent, the hot field as the reasons for his guarded view.
The son of Holy Roman Emperor has raced exclusively over six furlongs in his six starts, winning five of them, with two coming at Group level, the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe as a juvenile and the Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes.
Cliff Brown takes Inferno to another level in the Singapore Classic this Sunday.
After tasting defeat for the first time at his fifth start, he bounced back with a commanding win in a Class 3 race over 1200m on August 8.
From the way he storms home at the business end, another 200m should not be a big ask, but Brown believes the proof is in the pudding.
“I honestly don’t know. I could say it’s all good, he should be able to go further, but 1400m may not be his perfect trip, he may be just a 1200m horse,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we don’t know how they handle it until they race. Sunday will give us the answer.”
The Singapore Classic is the one-off renaming of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic, the second Leg of a tweaked-up Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge in this COVID-19-altered season.
Southern Hemisphere-bred four-year-olds – like Inferno, and his 11 rivals, except for US-bred three-year-old Knight Love – have been exceptionally allowed in after the series was moved past the August 1 “birthday” for such horses.
The third and final Leg remains the Group 1 Singapore Guineas on September 26. It will be run over the mile, but Brown would rather tackle one race at a time.
To him, if the distance doesn’t find his charge out, another hurdle to get past is the stellar opposition he is pitted against, including stablemate Bluestone.
“This is the best three-year-old* race I’ve seen in my time here,” said Brown who won the Classic twice with his banner horse Debt Collector (2016) and Mister Yeoh (2018).
“It’s a very good field with so many chances. All the horses have a genuine chance of winning.
“Mr Malek looks even fitter, Rocket Star has been desperately unlucky so many times, Big Hearted also had no luck at all and is one of the best horses in the race, and Sweet Angeline, she’s done nothing wrong winning her two races.
“As for Bluestone (to be ridden by jockey of the moment Ruan Maia), I was very happy with his trial (third to Chicago Star last Thursday). Vlad (Duric) galloped him yesterday and he worked very well, but look, he needs to improve to win at that level.
“Inferno is for sure among the best three-year-olds*. He’s done everything right since he’s been with us.
“Vlad (race-rider) galloped him yesterday. He’s not a great track worker, but he’s well, he’s good.
“I don’t like barrier seven, though, as it’s like no man’s land. It’s a hard barrier to work out.
“He will have to put in his biggest performance to win this race. It might not be good enough that day, we’ll find out on Sunday.”
Brown will also be setting the bar high for another one of his horses on Sunday, Elite Incredible in the $70,000 Big Maverick 2008 Stakes Class 3 race over 1400m. Anything subpar might close the door to a loftier target.
The Argentinian-bred five-year-old entire by Valid Stripes is an entry in next Sunday’s $500,000 Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m).
“Elite Incredible must win or run very well. Only if he does, then we’ll back him up in the Derby,” said Brown who also has Pax Animi on the list.
Elite Incredible boasts only one win (Class 4 over 1200m) from 12 starts but shone as one of the leading lights in last year’s Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, picking up two placings behind Top Knight in the last two Legs.
He went a little off the boil at the end of his last prep but ran an eye-catching fourth first-up in a Class 3 race over 1200m on August 8.
Jockey Marc Lerner, who rode him for the first time then and will be handed the reins again, sounded a little more bullish.
“Elite Incredible ran on well. He’s my best chance this week,” said the French jockey.
*These horses are technically four-year-olds, but the general racing industry still refers to them as three-year-olds, as they only just turned four on August 1.