By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
The 1200m was feared as too sharp for Heartening Flyer but the promising galloper still scored a scintillating win at his racing comeback on Saturday.
Not seen since his hard-fought win in Class 4 company in a 1400m race back in September, the Tivic Stable-owned Excelebration four-year-old was a lot more dominant even though he was first-up and tackling stronger opposition in the $70,000 Fortune Ox Stakes, a Class 3 event over 1200m.
The economical rails-hugging run courtesy of barrier No 1 was a massive help, but he somehow looked to be making heavy weather of it at the 300m when jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin peeled him off for his run.
But once he hit top gear, he suddenly sprouted wings to go and put the race away as he pleased.
Siam Warrior (Hakim Kamaruddin) and Makkem Lad (Yusoff Fadzli) were fighting out the finish but were swamped at the 200m with Wecando (Troy See) coming from well back to snatch second place two lengths away.
Heartening Flyer’s stablemate Spirit Of Big Bang (Shafrizal Saleh), who was coming back after an even longer time on the sidelines (13 months) for a leg fracture, stuck on nicely for third another neck away, just blousing out the duelling pair of Siam Warrior and Makkem Lad.
Sent out the short-priced favourite at $9, Heartening Flyer ran the 1200m on the Short Course in 1min 9.12secs.
Champion trainer Michael Clements’ assistant-trainer Michael White said he only dreaded the distance, but the horse’s natural ability saw him through.
“He was going up in class after a break, but was back in trip, and if he was to be beaten one day, today was the day,” said White.
“But he’s come back a better horse. He still had a look around when he hit the front, but he can switch off better and is going the right way.
“The Derby is his target – if that race takes place at some stage this year.”
The Group 1 Singapore Derby run over 1800m is the third and final Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge.
Beuzelin sent an ominous warning when he said Heartening Flyer was only at 50% of his peak ability.
“He’s still a bit fresh and it took him a while to get into his strides,” said the French jockey.
“It’s a good thing he was drawn one and wasn’t too far behind as we thought 1200m would be too short for him. It’s only after the winning post that he put in the big strides.
“He’ll get fitter from the run. He was only 50% of his best today.”
With that fourth win from only five starts, Heartening Flyer has amassed more than $145,000 in stakes money for the Tivic Stable.