By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Lee Freedman is hoping to get the answers he needs regarding Mr Malek running out a strong mile this Saturday.
Mr Malek will be the top trainer’s Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) contender on September 26, but like all of his Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge rivals, with the exception of Rocket Star, he has never been tested beyond seven furlongs.
The son of Swiss Ace ran a brave third to Inferno – in all likelihood, the horse to beat in the Singapore Guineas – in the second Leg of the series, the Group 2 Singapore Classic (1400m) on August 30.
Such was the authority of Cliff Brown’s protégé’s victory that Freedman reasoned it would be futile to take him on if the distance is suspect for a start, hence the decision to back Mr Malek up within two weeks, even if it entails jumping two classes in Saturday’s $100,000 Class 1 race over 1600m.
In a winning streak that began in a Restricted Maiden race in August 2019, Oscar Racing Stable’s rising star has won all his five races over 1200m, all the way up to Class 3 level. He is now pushing the envelope against the big boys like Countofmontecristo, King Louis and Makanani, and even stablemate Mr Clint, to name a few.
The one trade-off is the denoted minimum weight of 50kgs on his back, which will see him in receipt of as much as nine kilos from the topweight Countofmontecristo.
It’s still a bit of a leap of faith, but the result will give Freedman a good guide towards his grand final in another two weeks’ time.
“After Inferno was so dominant in the Classic, the plan is to make sure he can run over 1600m,” said the Australian mentor.
“The horse is really well and he will have no weight on his back. It was the only opportunity to run him before the Guineas.
“There is a month between the Classic and the Guineas, and I’ve run many of my horses one fortnight apart back home, and it’s worked. It’s a worthwhile gamble.
“He’s a nice sort and he hasn’t missed a beat since his last run. It’s also important Harry (jockey A’Isisuhairi Kasim) stays on him so he gets a feel as well towards the Guineas.”
The in-form Malaysian jockey also rode Oscar stalwart Mr Clint (x Power) to a fast-finishing fifth to Aramaayo in the Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) on August 16, but the yard’s emphasis is obviously skewed towards Mr Malek in the short run.
“Mr Clint is staying on course for the three big races at the end of the year,” said Freedman in reference to the Singapore Triple Crown races, the Raffles Cup (1600m), Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m) and Singapore Gold Cup (2000m), all Group 1 events.
“This will be another nice race for him, and JP (Juan Paul) van der Merwe will ride him.”
Freedman also saddles Loyalty Man, but in the case of the Fastnet Rock eight-year-old, the lack of class is likely to show even if he won a nice race at his last start in a Class 3 race over 1600m on Kranji Mile day.
“There aren’t a lot of races for him, and he needs to run,” said Freedman.
“There were no Class 2 races for him, so I thought why not run him in this Class 1 race. I think there is a Class 2 race for him in the early part of October.
“(Mohammad) Nizar rode him well last time and will stay on him.”
The 2018 Singapore champion trainer rang up a nice double with Smoke And Mirrors and Muraahib on Saturday for a total of 29 winners, helping him stay in touch with the leading duo of Mark Walker (35) and Michael Clements (32).
Though Freedman was unable to go back-to-back in the day’s highlight, the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m), which he won with Sun Marshal last year, he was not at all disappointed with Minister’s third to Top Knight. He also had Ocean Crossing who ran a creditable sixth.
“Minister drew a bad gate (14) and had to do a lot of work to go forward,” he said.
“Maybe it was too quick a tempo as well, while the favourite – and I don’t begrudge him at all – got back, did no work, and had one run at them.
“I’m still happy with Minister’s run, and I may set him for the Raffles Cup. We’ll assess him and will know what to do as we go from there.
“It’s October soon, and we have to really plan for these big races now, because everything has been compressed by COVID-19. We’re already in the last quarter of the season.”