By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
A better than expected run has held over a well-earned holiday but English miler Minister gets a solid chance to end up the richer from the extra time on the tracks.
Trainer Lee Freedman had meant to give the US-bred four-year-old a spell after the running of the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m) on October 31, but in the wake of a surprising second to Top Knight in the second Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series, the glittery shimmer of the third Leg was too hard to resist.
After consulting the Thai owners, the King Power Stable, Freedman went ahead and registered Minister as a late entry for the second round of nomination to this Saturday’s $1 million Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup (2000m).
Even without the QEII Cup run, the son of Street Sense would have qualified on his rating of 88 points, which after being jacked up to 93 points from that second placing, lifted him to a still handy 54.5kgs in the Gold Cup.
To give heavier jockeys a wider spread of chances to secure a ride, the weights in the handicap feature have been compressed to four points to the kilo instead of the usual two points in recent renewals.
Minister thus shores Freedman’s armada up to a four-pronged attack, the others being title defender Mr Clint (55.5kgs), 2019 Singapore Derby winner Sun Marshal (55kgs) and outsider Ocean Crossing (51kgs).
“Minister was supposed to go for a spell, but his run in the QEII Cup was that good that it would not make any sense if he had gone for a break,” said Freedman.
“It’s three weeks between races, it’s just nice. He has maintained his good shape, and he deserves a shot.
“As he trialled (sixth to Eye Guy) last Thursday, he will have his last gallop tomorrow.”
Known as Bye Bye Hong Kong in England, Minister has never ventured beyond 1700m in eight starts for top trainer Andrew Balding. He won three races, first over seven furlongs and the last two over a mile, including the Listed The Samaritans Stakes at Windsor in May 2019.
At Kranji, Minister has reproduced his English form, winning twice over 1600m and once over 1400m in his customary on-the-pace style, even if he did show a good finishing burst when dropped at the rear once, steaming home to finish runner-up to stablemate and fellow Gold Cup contender Ocean Crossing (x All Too Hard).
“I’m not sure if you can call Ocean Crossing a lightweight chance as the Gold Cup is more of a quality handicap with the top weight on 57kgs only,” said Freedman.
“He receives only six kilos from Top Knight, which doesn’t really put him at an advantage.
“But we’ll still have a crack. The Hong Kong owners are old established owners of mine, and it’s been a long-standing desire of them to have a Gold Cup runner.”
Not so new to the big time are the Oscar Racing Stable and Sun Bloodstock Racing Stable, with the former, having annexed its first Singapore Gold Cup after many attempts with Mr Clint (x Power) last year, while Sun Marshal (x Sepoy) shone for the Macau-owned Sun colours in last year’s Singapore Derby, but ran nowhere in last year’s Singapore Gold Cup.
While their latest performances have been a mixed bag this campaign, Freedman couldn’t fault their forms coming into Saturday’s big assignment.
“Mr Clint enjoys soft tracks as he showed at his third place in the QEII Cup, it was a very good run. He might get the same conditions this Saturday,” said Freedman.
“He’s sound and healthy, he’s a genuine 2000m horse whereas some of the other horses in the race are not proven at the distance.
“Sun Marshal ran an unusually bad race in the QEII Cup (11th), especially after he had been excellent in the lead-up (fourth in Kranji Mile and second in Raffles Cup, both over the mile).
“He usually likes some sting out of the ground, but I think the track was too heavy on that day.
“I’m actually very happy with his form going into Saturday. He’s been in great shape on the training tracks.”
With Ryan Munger (himself aboard at Sun Marshal’s two previous good runs) having steered Minister to that second place in the QEII Cup, Freedman has booked the lightweight South African jockey again for the Singapore Gold Cup ride while he has done a bit of reshuffling for the other three.
“John Powell rode Mr Clint a treat in the QEII Cup but he can’t make 55.5kgs, so Harry (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) will ride him,” said Freedman.
“Louis-Philippe Beuzelin (back from suspension) will ride Sun Marshal (who had A’Isisuhairi up last time) and Azhar Ismail will ride Ocean Crossing.”