By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Champion trainer Michael Clements pulled off the feat of turning stable transfer Tom Cat out for a win at his very first run under his helm.
What was even more commendable in the achievement was not only the fact the former Lee Freedman-trained sprinter had not raced for 217 days, but that he was also pulled right out of his comfort zone into a course and distance totally alien to him – turf and 1200m!
A one-time winner over the Polytrack 1100m from his previous seven starts all coming in all-weather events, Tom Cat ($22) was making his first 2021 appearance in uncharted territory, 1200m on the Short Course of the $50,000 Infantry 2017 Stakes, a Class 4 Division 1 race.
Clements’ bold gamble paid off thanks to a patient and typically strong ride from French jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin, but mostly to the Wandjina four-year-old’s own newfound or hidden talent.
After a smothered run in midfield from the start while Sun Step (Mohd Zaki) took up proceedings, Beuzelin waited until the last 300m to flick on the afterburners of his ‘Tomcat’ as an inviting gap came up for a powerful run to the wire.
Romantic (Simon Kok Wei Hoong) and Mr Hooper (Oscar Chavez) also popped up for a stinging challenge on the outside, but Tom Cat certainly relished the new trip, showing no signs of letting up all the way to the line to score by three-quarter length from Romantic with Mr Hooper third another short head away.
The winning time was 1min 10.83secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.
“It was his first run on turf and 1200m. All his previous starts had been over 1000m-1100m on Polytrack,” said Clements.
“This horse has done well since he’s come to us. His track gallops were very pleasing, but it remained to be seen how he would go on turf over 1200m.
“Louis gave him a great ride behind with cover, and when they opened up in the straight, he produced a strong run and found the line really well.
“With that win, it’s clear he can race on either surface and I think I will keep him running up to 1200m max.”
With two wins and two seconds, Tom Cat has now amassed in excess of $90,000 in stakes earnings for Thai outfit Kajorn Petch Racing No 5 Stable.