Clements’ famous five in for the fight

Trainer Michael Clements

By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

Michael Clements had all along a fairly good idea he might saddle at least a four-pronged attack in this Sunday’s $110,000 Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m), but the Singapore champion trainer will in the end go one better with five runners.

Tiger Roar, Prosperous Return, Ablest Ascend and Tuesday were all but in given their lofty positions (from 73 to 68 points) in the order of entry among this year’s batch of three-year-olds but Starlight proved to be the icing of the cake.

The son of Headwater was only at his first prep. As a result, even with a smart record of two wins and two seconds from four starts, he still sat in the borderline zone among the mid-sixties, but 63 points turned out to be enough.

Starlight has squeezed his way in to make it a quintet of runners for Michael Clements in the Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) this Sunday.

“I had the four highest rated horses in the race and I was quite confident they were always going to get in,” said Clements.

“In the end, Starlight also got in, so I’ve got a pretty big team now.”

Even if some might see Starlight as the wildcard, the Zimbabwean-born handler holds the PSM Racing Stable-owned gelding in high regard, even bracketing him in his top-three.

“I’ve got a lot of time for Starlight. He’s a horse who has a lot of ability, but I feel he hasn’t shown it yet in the races,” he said.

“He’s coming off a break (since a second place in a Class 4 race over 1400m on March 27) and took four weeks off.

“He comes into the race fresh and will wear blinkers for the first time. I think they will help him.

“He ran two good seconds behind a couple of good horses, Kharisma and Golden Flame.

“Whilst he has plenty of ability, physically and mentally, he’s not yet the finished product, but he’s come back more mature after his break.

“He’s a horse who will be even better over 1400m. I put him among my three top chances, including Prosperous Return and Tiger Roar, even if it’s hard to separate them.”

On 73 points, Singapore champion owner Falcon Racing’s four-time winner Tiger Roar (the remaining three won three) takes pride of place in the billings with Prosperous Return only two kilos off (69 points), albeit with the most upsides from Clements’ five-star team.

“Prosperous Return (x Fighting Sun) is coming off a break after winning three in a row,” said Clements of the gelding raced by Tivic Stable, the winning owner of the last Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint, Bold Thruster, in 2019 (last year’s was cancelled).

“He’s better suited to 1400m, but he’s also done very well over 1200m (one win). Like Starlight, he’s also fresh from a break.

“He ran a pleasing barrier trial with (race-rider) Vlad (Duric) last week and he showed he had improved.

“He’s quite a manageable horse as he’s quite relaxed and laid-back, but with the break, he has shown more maturity. He’s done everything he’s been asked to do, and it’s a good opportunity for him to run another good race.

“Of the five, Tiger Roar is the only one to have won in Class 3 (two wins over 1400m), but he’s definitely suited to further.

“The 1200m is on the short side, but he’s the highest rated horse in the race. He’ll be more prominent in the next leg over 1400m (Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic on July 18), and it’s a shame the (Group 1) Singapore Guineas (1600m) is off this year (hence the non-running of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge as a series with bonus up for grabs).

“However, at level weights off the top ratings, he’ll still be competitive this Sunday. We gave him a freshen-up (since last-start fifth to stablemate So Hi Class in a Class 3 race over the mile on May 15) just to keep him sharp for 1200m.

“He’s also effective on wet tracks. He’s definitely got lots of ability.”

Ablest Ascend (second Tivic runner) and Tuesday (second Falcon runner) may not be in Clements’ tierce, but they are anything but second stringers.

“Ablest Ascend is a horse that’s been strengthening up in time gone by,” said Clements of the son of Charm Spirit, a last-start all-the-way winner in a Class 4 speed dash over 1000m.

“Prior to his last win, he was just an average type, but his last win was impressive. He’s better suited to Polytrack, but he ran fourth in the two-year-old race (Group 3 Singapore Golden Horseshoe over 1200m won by Boomba last December) on grass, so I feel he’s better for that run.

“As for Tuesday, I think he’s the forgotten horse to some degree. Don’t forget he was the course record holder of Polytrack 1100m at some stage (before Elliot Ness bettered it by 0.02 second in April).

“He’s a good sprinter and has not had much luck in recent runs with his wide barriers. He’s running well but things have not gone his way.

“At level weights with three-year-olds, they’re all of the same age, he’ll be more competitive this time in. He’s in great shape and on his day, he’ll be right there.”

The son of Deep Field was indeed once seen as something out of the box, especially after his record-breaking win in January which he backed up with another Polytrack win (1200m) three weeks later, but the buzz died off a touch in three subsequent runs when risen to Class 3 level, albeit he was not beaten out of his ground.

With stable jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin suspended for careless riding, Clements had to do some fancy footwork to secure five jockeys, but couldn’t have hoped for a better permutation.

As mentioned earlier, Duric had already singled out Prosperous Return, champion apprentice Simon Kok Wei Hoong reunites with Tiger Roar, whom he steered to his last two wins, Juan Paul van der Merwe sticks to Tuesday, a horse he knows inside out, Clements’ former apprentice jockey Shafrizal Saleh is an apt replacement for Beuzelin on Starlight, and last but not least, Mohd Zaki got the job done when handed the reins on Ablest Ascend at his last-start win.

Jockeys are booked and the long-haul planning of five horses towards a common target is done and dusted, and even if he hogs almost half of the field, there are still a few rivals to worry about.

“It’s a very competitive field. Everest won a good maiden and franked that form with another good run (second),” said Clements.

“Boomba won many good races and Be You is also a smart horse I respect a lot.”

Author: iRace