By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
From “unrideable”, smart but temperamental sprinter Lim’s Lightning has gone on to give Daniel Meagher an unbelievable ride towards a tilt at a first Group 1 victory for the young trainer next Saturday.
The 2018 Singapore juvenile champion will contest the $300,000 Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) off the back of only one start (and victorious at that) at Kranji since unexpectedly returning from an Australian stint that yielded mixed results in both Queensland and Victoria last year.
Going back to square one was not smooth sailing because Lim’s Lightning, who was already not the most straightforward horse when Steven Burridge trained him at his first local career, had turned outright rogue.
Meagher had to start from scratch to get the Lope De Vega five-year-old re-schooled, race-fit and battle-ready for his comeback race, which turned out to be a Class 2 race over 1200m on March 20.
Just to get the recalcitrant customer’s name back on a racecard was a mini victory in itself. While his last Singapore start saw him run a belter when third to Top Knight in the Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) in May 2019, both his ante-Guineas form and Australian formline could not really predispose Meagher to any fireworks first-up.
But under a gun ride from Wong Chin Chuen, Lim’s Lightning showed that engine of old had never died down by mustering a stirring win in a three-way go. Caught wide throughout, he still let down with that same turn of foot that propelled him to four wins before, including the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) in 2018.
After such a sensational win, connections could not ignore the inviting Lion City Cup doors that were flung wide open.
Meagher, who has assisted his famous Melbourne Cup-winning father John to seven Group 1 wins at Kranji during their 11 years in Singapore, has not himself had Group 1 opportunities galore since he returned with a trainer’s licence in his own right in 2016, but suddenly has a first decent shot with a horse who had all but bade farewell to Kranji.
“I’ve not had many Group 1 runners except for Secret Win who ran twice in the Gold Cup,” said Meagher whose only feature race silverware was earned in the Group 3 El Dorado Classic (2200m) with that same Secret Win in 2017.
“Lim’s Lightning is my first genuine Group 1 chance. I’m really excited, especially as it’s with a horse belonging to the Lim’s who have not only been my biggest supporter, but my family’s as well.
“It would be a dream come true for me after spending 17 years here.”
Meagher will, however, keep his feet on the ground for another nine days, but had every reason to be upbeat after Lim’s Lightning’s barrier trial on Thursday, especially after a quick chat with jockey Danny Beasley, someone he appreciated for never sugar-coating his feedback.
Settled in centrefield, Lim’s Lightning was not bustled up at any stage, content to just tick along into third place, more than 4 ½ lengths off the winner Sun Marshal (Oscar Chavez).
“Danny is a straightforward kind of guy. He’s very blunt and that’s what you need as a trainer in a relationship with a jockey,” said Meagher of his former assistant-trainer slash good mate.
“He gets off the horse and says what he saw, and Dan said this horse has improved even further after his win.
“It’s quite amazing as we couldn’t train him back in February. He was unrideable, but with the help of my future apprentice jockey, Fahmy (Rosman), we have found the key to him.
“If he’s well put together today, it’s thanks to Fahmy who looks after him every morning and afternoon. I’m really happy with the team for having done what they’ve done with this horse, but we’ve still got nine days to go.”
Beasley, who has been in red-hot form since his recent riding comeback from a three-year hiatus, also heaped praise on Meagher’s track rider.
“The horse has worked very well, and all credit should go to the young guy who rides him every day. I only ride him in the trials,” said the Australian jockey.
“I couldn’t be happier with his trial this morning. He’s had a faultless preparation, everything went good and went to plan.
“He got his opportunity to shine at Group 1 level. Everything he’s done, he’s kept doing better and better.
“He had a good grounding with five trials, and I thought his last trial was very good the last time, but he’s come out and trialled even better this morning.
“He’s taken a lot of improvement from his last win and I think he’s a legitimate chance next week.”