By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
A big leap in class proved to be no barrier to Sacred Croix’s recent form resurrection on Saturday.
A four-in-a-row winner early in his Kranji career, Sacred Croix subsequently went through a barren run that was closing in on two years before he finally sprang back to winning ways at his last start, in Class 3 company.
Arguably, a similar type of race would be the safest way to let the confidence grow again, but trainer Mark Walker raised the bar even higher in this Saturday’s $100,000 Golden Ox Stakes, a Class 1 race over 1400m.
The Savabeel six-year-old was venturing into elite territory that included the likes of Muraahib, Fame Star or former Singapore Horse of the Year, I’m Incredible.
But with only 47.5kgs and Singapore’s current hottest property, Hakim Kamaruddin, on his back, it proved to be a well-calculated gamble for the horse Walker also races under the Remarkable Stable banner, though the Kiwi mentor later revealed it was more by default – there was no other race.
Well backed into $12, Sacred Croix came with a well-timed run to make it back-to-back wins. Upon straightening, tearaway leader Fame Star (Mohammad Nizar) looked to have taken an unassailable lead, but the closers weren’t far from getting him on a level pegging as the EW Barker Trophy winner started to get the staggers at the 200m mark.
Leading the charge was Muraahib (Wong Chin Chuen), while Sacred Croix then looked a bit of a forlorn hope, with still about five lengths to make up on Fame Star.
Hakim initially went for the rails run, but with Muraahib lugging in and narrowing down the gap, the quick-thinking lad judiciously made the switch to the outside. Once they saw daylight, his mount opened up with a pulsating turn of foot to go and score by one and a quarter lengths from Muraahib who just nutted Fame Star out into third place by a short head.
Sacred Croix clocked the smart time of 1min 21.53secs for the 1400m on the Short Course to register his sixth win from 23 starts for prizemoney that is just a little under $360,000.
“The horse has struck a lot of wet tracks. He also went too quickly through the grades and lost his way,” said Walker to explain the period the form was on the wane.
“He had a nice spell and has come back in good shape. He is stronger and carries a bit of condition again.
“Unfortunately, there aren’t quite enough races around for him, there are limited opportunities.”
Walker was again in awe of his apprentice jockey’s tactical nous that belied his relative inexperience. After saluting earlier aboard Entertainer, Sun Trek and Mustengo, the Kelantan-born rider was ringing up his second consecutive four-timer after last Sunday’s.
“Hakim is riding terrific, he’s a really gifted rider. I think he won the race when he decided to come out at the 300m,” he said.
Saturday’s prolific haul vaults Hakim’s score to 13 winners, widening the margin on Iskandar Rosman on the apprentice jockeys’ log to eight winners, but it also keeps him as the outright leader in the senior ranks, with the just-left (to soon ride in Hong Kong) Ruan Maia on eight winners as the next best.
“I know this horse (Sacred Croix) well as I won on him at his last start,” said the 22-year-old.
“The horse in front (Fame Star) was flying and I thought I could not catch him. At the 200m, I had to go to the outside as there was no room (Muraahib was hanging in) and it’s only then my horse showed his turn of foot.
“He’s a very good horse.”
The win incidentally capped a good day at the office for Walker as well, given he also prepares Entertainer and Mustengo, with the treble taking his 2021 score to nine winners. However, reigning champion trainer Michael Clements still holds a two-win margin on Walker thanks to a double with Heartening Flyer (see earlier report) and $140 longshot Paletas (Shafrizal Saleh) in the last race, the $50,000 Lucky Ox Stakes, a Class 4 Division 2 race over 1100m.