Poly guide toward Kranji Mile for Clements duo

Heartening Flyer will be at his first mile test on Saturday. Photo: STC

By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

While waiting for longer assignments on turf, trainer Michael Clements is not against the idea of taking the Polytrack road less travelled with his promising pair of Heartening Flyer and Spirit Of Big Bang this Sunday.

Spirit Of Big Bang is an Irish-bred three-time winner, all on the turf mile, with no prior test on the synthetic surface while New Zealand-bred Heartening Flyer, from five starts, actually boasts a perfect one-from-one record on Polytrack, albeit it was in easier Restricted Maiden company at his Kranji debut on July 26 last year.

The 1200m trip of this Sunday’s $70,000 Class 3 race is not really an issue, especially for Heartening Flyer whose four wins were recorded mostly over that distance (three of them and the fourth over 1400m), but Clements would have preferred a step-up in distance now that a critical hitherto unknown quantity is part of the equation – feature races.

The recent release from the Singapore Turf Club of the pared-down but select offering of only 10 Group events to be run this year from April is widely accepted as the bitter pill to swallow in these unprecedented times we live in, but at least, trainers are now able to tailor a training programme towards such lofty targets for their better horses.

For example, while the likes of Top Knight and Big Hearted are Clements shoo-ins for the $1 million Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) on May 22, Heartening Flyer and Spirit Of Big Bang could be worthy running mates should they perform to expectations this Sunday – and keep scaling through their grades.

“Both Heartening Flyer and Spirit Of Big Bang are waiting to get back on turf and looking for further,” said the 2020 Singapore champion trainer.

“In an ideal world, 1400m on turf would have been better as their next race, but this 1200m race on Polytrack is in the meantime the most suitable race for them. For Heartening Flyer, all the indications show he sprints well on Polytrack, anyway.

“I’m actually considering both horses for the Kranji Mile in May, but they will first have to step up from where they are at and get their ratings up to qualify.”

Of the two, the boom is clearly on the Tivic Stable-owned Heartening Flyer – more upsides and the added bonus of a wider vista of opportunities given the son of Excelebration’s age – four.

“If he keeps improving as I hope, Heartening Flyer may then go for the four-year-old races, both taking place in July,” said Clements falling short of calling them “Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge” now that it’s down to only the last two Legs, the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) on July 3 and Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) on July 25.

“He resumed well at the races last time (Class 3 race over 1200m on February 13). It was a great effort to win in convincing style.

“I’m happy with the progress he has made since that run.”

Spirit Of Big Bang (Joseph Azzopardi) at his first Singapore win on October 13, 2019.

Clements is no less excited by Spirit Of Big Bang, following the pleasant watch of his fast-finishing third to Heartening Flyer in that same Class 3 race in February, first-up after a long time on the sidelines. The Team Cheval & Goldenhill Stable-owned six-year-old son of Intikhab was struck down by hoof issues shortly after his last-start win in a Class 3 race over 1600m on January 10, 2020.

“Spirit Of Big Bang had an accident on the training tracks shortly after his last prep. He fractured the bone in his right front hoof,” said Clements.

“He was out for some time and the way he resumed the other day was very promising, especially over 1200m which is short of his best. He’s looking for 1600m.

“In saying this, he did sprint well at that last start, and I hope he goes well this Sunday.”

Clements’ former apprentice jockey Shafrizal Saleh has another go on Spirit Of Big Bang after partnering him for the first time at his comeback race while stable jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin takes the ride on Heartening Flyer.

Should the duo pass muster as Kranji Mile material, they would add further ammunition to Clements’ already fearsome arsenal spearheaded by top bullets Top Knight and Big Hearted.

“A lot of my horses have had a break and this is the time of the year we start to get busy as they return for their preps towards the big races,” he said.

“Big Hearted has already had two nice barrier trials and will run in the Class 2 race over 1200m on March 20.

“Top Knight is a couple of weeks away from his first trial. He will run first-up in a Class 1 race over 1200m on April 4.”

Author: iRace