By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
An impressive first-up win at the last meeting in 2020 was a testament to the benefits a softer training regimen seems to have had on promising US-bred four-year-old Knight Love.
The son of Shanghai Bobby already gave a good idea of his ability as a three-year-old with one win and two seconds from four starts last prep.
The only blemish was an unplaced run in the second Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, the Group 2 Singapore Classic (1400m) in August when a weakening 10th to Inferno.
Trainer Michael Clements has drawn a few important lessons from that learning curve, notably from that last run.
Some corrective actions were in store for the Hong Kong-owned gelding – and they were threefold.
First off, a much-needed break from the rigours of that first hard campaign where as a Northern Hemisphere-bred, he was six months less mature than his Australian/New Zealand-bred counterparts.
Once he was ready to have a saddle back on, he would then be subjected to a different training programme where there would be less emphasis on fast work.
And from the way he finished down the course in the Classic, Clements would from now on resist the temptation of venturing him beyond 1200m, at least in the foreseeable future.
The results were instantaneous. At his very first race back, Knight Love returned to his best with a slashing two-and-a-quarter-length victory under Ruan Maia in a Class 4 race over the Polytrack 1000m on December 27.
After a four-week break, the next assignment is this Saturday’s $50,000 Class 4 Division 1 race over 1100m on Polytrack in the last event of the 10-race programme.
Clements sounded confident the physically and mentally “stronger” Knight Love can continue to showcase his potential.
“Knight Love was six months behind. He had a break, came back and won a really nice race,” said the Singapore champion trainer.
“The spell did him so much good. He’s not a heavy horse at 460kgs, but he has strengthened up a lot physically, and he’s so much better off mentally as well.
“We’ve adjusted his training routine somewhat as we felt he was just immature last prep. It’s a much lighter routine this time, a few more swims, slow work, but he still has some hard gallops.
“It’s suited him better and he’s definitely picked up. He’s put in some good track gallops leading up to that first-up win.
“He has come out of that win very well and we’re looking forward to another good run this Saturday.”
While Knight Love will be slapped with three and a half kilos more, the 56.5kgs impost has worked out well in terms of rider.
With Maia gone (serving a two-week careless riding suspension and moves to Hong Kong thereafter) and other regular partner Louis-Philippe Beuzelin suspended, Clements approached Vlad Duric, despite a query about the handicap and his availability.
All’s well as the heavyweight four-time Singapore champion jockey gave the okay for what may well be a golden opportunity to open his account at his first 2021 meeting after missing the first four through suspension and a minor throat issue.
“When Maia was suspended, I contacted Vlad. Luckily, he could do the weight and he was also available,” said Clements.
Drawn in five, Knight Love will be taking on the likes of last-start winner Proof Perfect and California, but Mr Alan Leung’s ward probably weighs in with the most upsides.
“We’ll look at sprints for him as his short-term target,” said Clements.
“He will then go through the divisions and if he can make it to Class 3, we can then look at better races for him.”
One newcomer of Clements’ who has to start from the bottom of the ladder is former English-based Kassab. While still a maiden, the Exceed And Excel four-year-old did show some potential in four starts, notching up a placing at his final English run in a six-furlong race at Yarmouth in September 2019.
After the Al Rashid Stable-owned galloper met with a few hiccups that held over his Kranji debut, Clements will finally get to launch him in the $20,000 Open Maiden race over 1000m, with Duric again the man for the steering job.
“He came to us with a few runs in the UK. His first trials for us weren’t good and he then had some pain in the bone and joints,” said Clements.
“It was nothing major and we gave him more time for the bone to strengthen up. He’s come back in better order and I was quite happy with his trial (January 14 when third to Who Loves Bae).
“We’ll learn more about him from that first run.”
After starting off with a couple of horses, namely So Hi Class back in 2019, the Kuwaiti-owned Al Rashid Stable has boosted his support for Clements with another dozen of horses last year, the bulk of whom hail from England.
So Hi Class has been thus far their stable flagship with four winners while the likes of Marikh (one win), Mardoona (one win) and Alfares have been the most forward from the second batch.