Second-up run crucial to Mr Malek’s big-race goals

A'Isisuhairi Kasim will reunite with Mr Malek this Saturday.

By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

After an encouraging first-up run from his new star stable transfer Mr Malek, trainer Steven Burridge is hoping to see that form hold up this Saturday.

The Australian handler has pencilled in the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) on July 3 as the Swiss Ace four-year-old’s short-term target, with an even bigger catch three weeks later, the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) on July 25.

But before counting his chickens, Burridge said that Mr Malek must at least reproduce that eye-catching first-up third to Kharisma in a Kranji Stakes A race over 1200m on May 22 in this Saturday’s easier $85,000 Class 2 race over 1400m to even be considered towards loftier targets.

That first Mr Malek run for Burridge since transferring from ex-Kranji trainer Lee Freedman was anything but push-button. Oscar Racing Stable’s six-time winner was lame when he walked through his new barn.

The root cause was thought to be a nail in the hoof. It was duly treated, with the resulting run suggesting it worked.

“It looks like we’ve got on top of his hoof issues. He did a pretty good job to get to the races from that,” said Burridge who just brought up a revitalising weekend double (Wealth Elite and Chalaza) to spark up his quiet 2021 season thus far.

“I told Simon (Kok Wei Hoong) to ride him where he would travel comfortably. They went hard and he was caught between horses.

“He had no galloping room, but he came through the run very well. I’m very happy with his progress.”

Burridge said he would have preferred 21 days in the lead-up to the Stewards’ Cup instead of one month, but was left with no other choice.

“I would have liked to give him another week so he has three weeks between runs towards the Stewards’ Cup, but there was no suitable race,” he said.

“So we’ve got to run him now. The 1400m will suit him a lot better.

“My only worry is the D Short Course. The track seems to suit leaders better.”

Like many stables facing difficulties in those COVID-19 times, Burridge has seen his string shrink dramatically in recent years, not to mention hardly any matched the firepower of his golden years in the early to mid-2010s.

Lim’s Lightning’s Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe in 2018 was his last silverware to a trophy cabinet that does feature two Group 1 winners, Risky Business in the 2010 Longines Singapore Gold Cup and Speed Baby in the 2011 Patron’s Bowl.

Mr Malek has suddenly become his one bullet for a shot at those giddy heights again, more particularly the race all trainers dream of winning, the Singapore Derby (1800m), even if it’s not part of the famed trilogy of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge for the first time this year (Group 3 Silver Bowl was canned).

“Long-term, the Derby is definitely a race we’d like to explore with Mr Malek,” said Burridge.

“I’m not sure if he’s bred to run 1800m, but he won over 1600m once, so you’d think 1800m should not be too hard.”

Mr Malek inherited his speed genes from his sire Swiss Ace early doors, but that trait is not so obvious these days.

“As he gets older, he’s lost a bit of his dash – like me. Just have to keep working to the line,” said Burridge, a former jockey who plied his trade in Australia, and around the world, mostly in Macau, Malaysia and Singapore before switching to training.

“But seriously, I’m happy enough with him and I hope he goes well this Saturday.”

With Kok currently suspended – back-to-back careless riding bans of one week each (Atlas and Pennywise) – Burridge had to look elsewhere, and couldn’t have made a better choice than big-race jockey A’Isisuhairi Kasim.

The Malaysian lightweight jockey, who was Burridge’s apprentice jockey in the past, recently added the Group 1 Kranji Mile aboard Minister to his host of feature race wins.

Not only is he riding in a rich vein of form, but he also knows Mr Malek very well for having steered him to two wins from three rides.

Author: iRace