By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
A blank day is rare for Michael Clements, in fact Saturday’s was his first in 17 meetings this season, but the Singapore champion trainer is already looking to put that blip behind him this Saturday.
None of his dozen of runners on Lion City Cup day could cross the line first, leaving the Zimbabwean-born handler rooted at 26 winners, and more tellingly, allowing arch-rival Mark Walker, who on the other hand, had a day out with five winners, to shave the lead off to only one winner on 25 winners.
Such is the depth of Clements’ armada that he is returning with 11 of them this Saturday, including one on the quick back-up, unplaced Lion City Cup (1200m) contender Muraahib.
Easing back the Reset six-year-old into Class 2 company in the $85,000 race over 1100m, Clements is expecting a more forward run than his weakening 10th to Lim’s Lightning when partnered by A’Isisuhairi Kasim, but he is also counting on either Heartening Flyer or Tiger Roar to come up trumps in the $70,000 Class 3 race over 1400m, among others.
“The last time they met, Tiger Roar won mainly because of the pull in weights (in receipt of 5.5kgs from Heartening Flyer), but Heartening Flyer lost no marks, and came through his run very well,” said Clements referring to the much-vaunted Excelebration four-year-old’s second to stablemate Tiger Roar (3yo by Wandjina) in a Class 3 race over 1400m on April 4.
“He’s a progressive horse and is ultra-consistent, and I’m looking forward to a good run, even if the 1400m is still on the short side. He’s looking for 1600m and even further like 1800m, that’s when he’ll be more effective.
“He’s got a bit of speed, and is more of a miler, whereas Tiger Roar is probably the better stayer. They’re both progressive horses, the further they go, the better it’ll be.
“I’m looking at both Legs of the 4yo series for Heartening Flyer.”
The Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge will not take place this year, but two of its Legs, the second Leg, the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and third Leg, the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) will be held three weeks apart on July 3 and 25, respectively.
Clements is sticking to the same riding team with Louis-Philippe Beuzelin not leaving Heartening Flyer’s side and Simon Kok Wei Hoong reprising his winning ride on Tiger Roar.
He also saddles Argentinian-bred Elite Incredible for the first time since transferring from now Australian-based trainer Cliff Brown, and has picked Oscar Chavez for the ride. It’s the first time the Panamanian jockey is riding the one-time winner (1200m) by Valid Stripes.
Muraahib is also getting a new partner in Beuzelin in the $85,000 Class 2 race over 1100m. Clements had no hesitation in gearing the former Lee Freedman-trained three-time winner up for another stab when he ran his eyes over after his Lion City Cup race.
“Muraahib didn’t have that hard a race, and this race on Saturday is not a particularly strong Class 2 race,” he said.
“The Lion City Cup is a Group 1 race at level weights, and was a big ask for him. This is more down his alley.”
Clements also saddles Quarter Back in the Class 2 contest. The Japanese-bred six-year-old by Empire Maker didn’t cut much ice at the rear at his comeback race in a Class 3 race over 1200m won by Makkem Lad, only passing a few tired runners late.
“Quarter Back had a bad draw at his last start. He is in the right class and is in good shape,” he said.
“Like I said, it’s not a strong race, and I hope he puts in a better run. Shafrizal (Saleh) will ride him.”
If none of the above strikes, Clements can look to another six runners – Shepherd’s Hymn and Voluminous in the $50,000 Class 4 over 1800m, and Heng Xing, Almugir, Monday and Friday split across three Class 5 races to help put a buffer back on a Walker recharged with a full head of steam.
“It was a great weekend for Mark. It sure makes it more interesting for the premiership,” said a sporting Clements.
“It’s too early to look at it now, but what we will keep working on is train winners. Championships are all determined by winners, I’ll just have to keep my head down and keep working hard.”