By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
The Kranji Mile runs didn’t quite pan out the way trainer Michael Clements would have wished, but he remained confident his trio will be better suited by the conditions of the $500,000 Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) this Saturday.
After all, the Singapore Derby, the third and last Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge, was always the grand final for Top Knight, Siam Blue Vanda and On Line. Whilst billed as Singapore’s premier event in the last three years, the Kranji Mile was more a prelude of sorts.
Top Knight fared the best in the Group 1 mile feature on August 16 with a typical searching run to finish a half-length second to Aramaayo while Siam Blue Vanda and On Line ran sixth and seventh respectively around 4 ½ lengths off the winner.
Runner-up to Aramaayo (in red) twice, Top Knight (in blue) will be bidding to go one better this Saturday.
Three weeks on, Aramaayo will again be in the way, and will for sure be the horse to beat. Clements respects the former Godolphin Group 3 winner the most, but doesn’t believe the tables cannot be turned.
“They all ran in the Kranji Mile, and I would say, they ran fair races. Top Knight ran the best, and I thought Siam Blue Vanda didn’t get the best of runs,” said Clements who is hoping to crack it for his first Singapore Derby win with arguably his best chance to-date, Top Knight.
“But they will run against four-year-olds (technically five-year-olds) this time while they ran against older horses like Countofmontecristo at level weights in the Kranji Mile.
“No doubt the winner (Aramaayo) was also four, but the Kranji Mile formed part of their preparation, and they have come through in great shape.
“All three will be better suited by the rise in distance and the long course. They have also all drawn outside barriers, which will give them a bit of space, which is acceptable for them as they like that.
“Among the three, the level weights will make it a big ask for On Line, but he will be suited to the longer distance and the long course.
“Still, you have to respect Shane’s (Baertschiger) horse (Aramaayo). He has come right and is now at his peak in Singapore.
“When they put the blinkers on, that really improved him. He’s the horse to beat, no doubt about it, but I’m still hoping for the best from my horses.
“With the change in race conditions to the long course and longer distance, I hope one of them can topple him.
“Another horse to watch is Minister. He’s a progressive horse, he’s drawn the widest, but it’s a long run down the back for the 1800m.”
Clements actually had two other four-year-olds in the mix, Vittoria Perfetta and So Hi Class, but voluntarily lowered their aim towards more realistic targets.
“Vittoria Perfetta and So Hi Class could have made the cut on ratings, but I decided to run them in the Class 3 race over 1800m instead,” he said.
“They are progressive horses, but I thought it’d be too big an ask for them. It’s all well and good to have a Derby runner, but when the horse gets beaten by 15 lengths, the faces are not so happy.
“Someday, they may improve and run in good races, but not just yet.”
Champion jockey Vlad Duric reunites with Top Knight, while Louis-Philippe Beuzelin sticks to his long-made Derby choice Siam Blue Vanda. The booking of Matthew Kellady on On Line is unusual given it’s not a trainer-jockey pairing we often see, but with the shortage of top senior jockeys these days, it’s become the “new normal”.
Beuzelin and Saifudin Ismail are booked on So Hi Class and Vittoria Perfetta respectively in the $70,000 Race Ahead 2010 Stakes Class 3 race over 1800m.