Lim’s Lightning gives Meagher first Group 1 win in Lion City Cup

Dan Meagher

By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

An emotional Daniel Meagher was trying to take it all in after he notched his first Group 1 success as a trainer in his own right with Lim’s Lightning bursting late onto the scene to claim the $300,000 Lion City Cup (1200m) on Saturday.

Meagher, the youngest of Australian Hall of Fame trainer and former Kranji trainer John Meagher’s three sons, spent 11 years in Singapore honing his craft with his father.

He was only two when Meagher Snr won the Melbourne Cup with What A Nuisance in 1985, but he certainly picked up a few tools of the trade when he grew up and moved to Singapore in 2000.

Lim’s Lightning (Danny Beasley) takes out the Group 1 Lion City Cup in a barnstorming finish.

Together with brothers Paul and Chris, he helped apply the polish to seven Group 1 winners at Kranji, the pinnacle being no doubt Kim Angel in the Singapore Gold Cup in 2000, when ridden by Mick Dittman, who funnily enough, would go on to have a hand in Meagher Jr’s first Group 1 win 21 years later.

But opportunities at the elite level had been few and far between since he returned to Kranji in 2016 to again fly the Meagher banner, except for two-time Singapore Gold Cup raider Secret Win, who incidentally, was the supplier of his only feature race silverware thus far, the Group 3 El Dorado Classic (2200m) in 2018.

When Lim’s Lightning sprang an upset win in a Class 2 race over 1200m carrying only 51kgs under jockey Wong Chin Chuen’s guidance on March 20, first-up from a long break following his return in December from a below-par stint in Australia (Queensland/Victoria), Meagher was suddenly hopeful his turn had come.

While the knockers still had their doubts whether the Lope De Vega five-year-old could reproduce the same spark at level weights second-up on a much bigger stage, against some of Singapore’s finest sprinters like Grand Koonta, Fame Star and Zac Kasa, Meagher was confident his new stable star had not fluked that win, and would present himself as an even fitter horse on the day.

The 37-year-old handler was proven right. The once-forgotten former juvenile champion and Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe winner (when then prepared by Steven Burridge) had again been neglected by most punters (he was sent out at lukewarm odds of $42, a steal for a last-start winner) at this Group 1 assignment, but Meagher has woven his special brand of magic and patience to bring him back to his best when it mattered.

One week before the race, he had said it would be a dream come true if Lim’s Lightning wins, on Saturday, he was standing in the limelight, pinching himself. Choking back tears, Meagher was above all thankful to the people behind his success and that first Group 1 breakthrough.

“It’s been a wonderful experience. It’s very special for (owner) Mr Lim (Siah Mong) and (jockey) Dan (Beasley), (Mr Lim’s racing manager) Mick Dittman, but also for my whole staff, (wife) Sabrina and my two kids, my father,” he said as he paused to recompose himself, overwhelmed no doubt when it dawned on him he had just followed into the footsteps of his famous father, who, unfortunately, had had some health issues of late.

“Danny asked me how I was in the parade ring, and I told him I was very confident. The horse looked terrific in the yard, and all Danny had to do was keep him happy, keep him flowing.

“He was caught wider than I would have liked, but he was not pulling, and he was super to the line.

“I’m just rapt for the stable, and everybody back home. It hasn’t sunk in, I’ve just won my first Group 1!

“Mr Lim has not only been a wonderful supporter, but also a good friend in the last 20 years. He puts a lot of faith in me and my staff.”

When they drew the outermost alley in 13, the camp had to indeed have a lot of faith in their gallant sprinter, but Beasley never gave way to panic despite a less than ideal passage three wide without cover in the rear division.

As Lim’s Lightning began to settle into his stride, upfront in the driving seat, second-favourite Fame Star was making play, ridden on a piece of cotton by Simon Kok Wei Hoong, a jockey who boasted an unblemished record of four rides for four wins on the US-bred speedster.

Another fleet-footed customer Celavi (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) soon came injecting more speed by joining the fray, but the leader looked unfazed and in the zone, while Zac Kasa (Marc Lerner) was smoking his pipe in his first-class seat right behind, and the other well-backed grey, favourite Grand Koonta (Vlad Duric) was about to set the wheels in motion a few strides away.

Turning for home, Celavi was the first to hoist the white flag. Zac Kasa was promptly revved up as he was peeled out into an inviting gap, but despite Lerner’s urgings, looked flat as a pancake.

Fame Star was holding sway with aplomb until Grand Koonta was hunted up to stake his claim on the outside. An epic battle between the two top fancies was on the cards, but they had not reckoned with ‘lightning’ striking twice (Fame Star was just nutted out by Lim’s Lightning at his last start).

Though inclined to lug in a fraction, Lim’s Lightning was driven at full pelt towards the line for an almost carbon-copy rendition of his last win. Rocket Star (Wong), who had latched onto Lim’s Lightning’s heels from a long way out, made it interesting with a surging run, but could only finish within three-quarter length, beating three others to the runner-up spot in a close battle for the minors.

Grand Koonta lost no marks in third place another short head away, with Fame Star and Nowyousee (Noh Senari) close by, a neck and a nose away respectively. The winning time was 1min 9.14secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.

Connections celebrate: (from left) trainer Daniel Meagher, owner Lim Siah Mong and jockey Danny Beasley on Lim’s Lightning.

If Meagher struggled to find his words at such a poignant moment, Beasley had his own personal reasons to be just as overcome with powerful self-reflective thoughts at the winner’s dais.

As well documented in the media, the 45-year-old Australian jockey recently returned to the saddle after an early retirement that, however, lasted only three years as Meagher’s assistant-trainer.

The comeback was like riding a bike, you never forget. Beasley has already booted home 11 winners in two months, but most incredibly, a Group 1 winner has been hurled smack into a win-account that had only just been dusted off.

Interestingly, the last Group 1 winner, but second-last feature winner (War Affair’s dead-heat in the Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes was the last) he rode before he hung his boots was the 2017 Lion City Cup with another Lim’s heavyweight, Lim’s Cruiser for trainer Stephen Gray.

But to the former Golden Slipper-winning rider (Polar Success in 2003), all those memories could not be consigned to the archives when a curveball from nowhere hit the world and the local racing industry last year.

“I can’t begin to say how much this win means to me,” he said.

“Two months ago, I was an assistant-trainer to Dan, mucking out boxes and leading out horses.

“I can’t thank the Singapore Turf Club enough. They were doing it tough when the pandemic hit last year, and I told myself I was not doing my part to help them.

“The Singapore Turf Club has been good to me, and I had to give back to them. A big thank you to (Assistant Vice-President) Steven Tan and the CEO, Irene Lim, and also, Mr Lim.

“The Lion City Cup with Lim’s Cruiser was the last Group 1 race I won before I left, but I’ve won this one for my best mate Dan, and for Chris back in Melbourne.

“This one takes the cake, especially given the current circumstances in Singapore. That’s why we wake up every morning, to try and win Group 1 races with those horses, they are more special.

“But this win is also very special because of John. As you may know, he’s not been in the best of health, but he would call Dan every day to ask about Lim’s Lightning. He’d be beside himself now.

“The horse himself took a little while to get back as he was a little keen initially, but he quickly had his head back on his chest.

“For a while, things were going exactly like Lim’s Cruiser, we were in a similar position. At the 300m, I thought I had a bit of work to do as he still spotted the leaders around four lengths, but he was rattling, he was flying.

“I’ve ridden this horse in countless barrier trials, it was my first time riding him in a race as CC Wong rode him at his last win, but he’s been building up with each run and he was simply phenomenal today.”

Lim’s Lightning has now taken his local record to six wins and three thirds from 12 starts for stakes earnings that have stacked up past the $630,000 mark for the Lim’s Stable. In eight starts in Australia, he scored one win at Werribee for A$17,325 in prizemoney.

Author: iRace