By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Even-money favourite Starlight duly delivered but not without rattling the nerves of his backers and connections inside the last 300m on Saturday.
Following his smashing debut win at last season’s final meeting, Starlight was considered by many as a shoo-in in the $75,000 Novice race over 1200m (especially after Infinite Wisdom was scratched), not to mention the early “next big thing” spruiking that had already done the rounds.
While Michael Clements’ Headwater three-year-old still had Shane Baertschiger’s fellow talked-up three-year-old Be You (Ruan Maia) to contend with, as well as more experienced campaigners like the Mark Walker pair of Brutus and Speedy Missile, the widespread consensus is he should walk in.
But at the 300m pole when Be You, who had been a thorn in his side from the start, levelled up and even poked his head in front, those who had already called him home before the race must have been eating their words.
They might have gone the early crow about another rout, but Starlight still revealed another brilliant facet of his – a strong will to win despite his relative inexperience.
Under jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin’s renewed vigour, Starlight resolutely picked himself off the canvas to rein Be You back in before pressing on to a valiant half-length win.
Speedy Missile (Hakim Kamaruddin) gave a fleeting impression he could lower the boom of the two main protagonists as he bore down on them from their offsides, but he could not muster a strong enough burst to settle for third place another length away. The winning time was 1min 10.22secs for the 1200m on the Long Course.
Clements’ assistant-trainer Michael White was clearly a relieved man at the winner’s circle as he waited on the PSM Racing Stable-owned galloper to return to scales, but still stood by his spontaneous assessment Starlight was one of the best he has dealt with at Kranji.
The Australian also reiterated his fears about the flip side of the exciting prospect – his jittery mannerisms.
“I’m still very nervous when he heads out there. He’s still nowhere near the finished article, we haven’t done much with him and he still doesn’t know what he’s doing,” said White.
“But he’s beaten a handy horse in Be You today. The day his brain is linked to his engine, he’ll be a much better horse.
“With time, he will get longer and I believe he doesn’t necessarily have to lead. When he learns to relax, I think he’ll be a good chaser.
“But from barrier two today, we took advantage of his good gate speed to let him dictate.”
Beuzelin agreed with White the further it is the better Starlight will get.
“He was still green and gazing at all the advertisement banners,” said the French jockey.
“I think Be You came challenging him too early on the Long Course. As I had given him every chance with a nice breather in front, he was able to quicken again.
“We were actually headed for one good furlong from the 400m to the 200m, but he came back. The fact he will get better over more ground gave him an advantage, too.
“He will get 1400m on his ears.”
After fetching A$210,000 as a two-year-old at the Inglis Ready-2-Run in 2019, Starlight is close to recouping half of that price tag from his two-from-two record with around $80,000 in the bank for the PSM Racing Stable