EMPEROR MAX raring to go
Sunday's $200,000 Saas Fee Stakes is an important race for trainer Stephen Gray's consistent flagship galloper EMPEROR MAX.
A win in the Group 3 feature could earn the five-year-old his ticket to Hong Kong for the International Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint over 1,200m at Sha Tin on Dec 14.
Gray got his classy charge on the toes for the Saas Fee Stakes with a nice breeze-up trial at Kranji yesterday.
Although he did not win, going down second to Italian Job by two and three-quarter lengths in Trial 5, it was evident that Emperor Max could have gone closer, if not beaten Italian Job, if jockey Corey Brown had woken his mount up from his slumber.
Emperor Max should now be spot-on to rule supreme in the Saas Fee Stakes and endorse his Hong Kong Sprint participation.
Since coming from Australia, Emperor Max has been ultra consistent. He has yet to finish further than second in 10 starts, winning six times, including the Group 2 Stewards' Cup over the Saas Fee Stakes trip of 1,400m on June 1.
He then went for a near four-month break and resumed on Sept 21 and lost no marks when second to record-breaker Faaltless in the Group 3 Garden City Trophy over 1,200m.
That run, plus additional work and yesterday's trial, should have firmed Emperor Max up for the task.
A trip to Hong Kong could see him cross swords with his International Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint conqueror Lucky Nine at Sha Tin.
Before the Garden City Trophy, Gray had expressed his Hong Kong owners' interest in making the trip if invited.
"He finished second in the KrisFlyer and was only beaten by one of the best sprinters in the world, so he's proven himself," said Gray then.
"The owners are from Hong Kong, so they've discussed it with me about sending him for it."
TRIAL 1 (ORT)
1 Fastnet Dragon
2 Bullet (B Vorster)
3 Morales (K A'Isisuhairi)
4 Archaeology (L Allpress)
5 Amazing (D Beasley)
Margins and time: 3½, 2, ½, 5 (1min 00.85sec)
The field got away okay.
Morales jumped quickly to be a length in front but Fastnet Dragon shot to the lead. At the 600m, he was about three lengths ahead of Bullet and Morales on his inside. Archaeology was next, pulling a little. Amazing was last.
Fastnet Dragon straightened up in the middle of the Polytrack, about five lengths in front of Bullet, who also went wide. Fastnet Dragon was well clear in the final 200m and, although he appeared to tire a little in the closing stages, he still won easily by three and a half lengths from Bullet, who was pushed out slightly by Vorster.
TRIAL 2 (ORT)
1 Tip Of Borneo (R Rueven)
2 Emperor James (C Brown)
3 Fast Rich (R Shafiq)
4 Lim's Elusive (J Powell)
5 Ami Eleven (Z Zuriman)
6 Pioneer Liu (Vorster)
7 Heavenly Gift (A Munro)
Margins and time: 5¼, 6, 1¼, 4½, 11¾, 2½ (1:01.47)
Lim's Elusive was a bit slow into stride.
Tip Of Borneo fired away and showed abundant speed. He led past the 600m mark by about six lengths from Emperor James. Ami Eleven was four lengths behind. The rest were bunched up behind.
Tip Of Borneo straightened up well clear of Emperor James. The rest were out of it. Although he was well in front, Tip Of Borneo was tested with the whip and won by a big margin over Emperor James.
TRIAL 3 (TEST)
1 Tropaios (Brown)
2 High Troja
3 Bullet Fly
4 My Lucky Strike (Shafiq)
5 Empress Wu (T Rehaizat)
6 Megathink (O Chavez)
7 Dragon Knight (Rueven)
Margins and time: 3, 2¼, 1¼, ¾, 4, ¾ (1:01.34)
Dragon Knight (blinkers-pacifiers) jumped awkwardly and dropped back last.
Megathink led and was about two lengths in front of fellow newcomer High Troja at the 600m mark. Bullet Fly (registration) was a length away, with another length to newcomer My Lucky Strike. Then came Empress Wu (1,000m/starting stall/vet), Tropaios (blinkers-pacifiers) wide and Dragon Knight.
Megathink was passed by High Troja shortly after straightening. Tropaios surged up and overtook the leader after passing the 300m mark and raced away to win beautifully by two and a quarter lengths. The addition of the new gear seemed to have perked up last year's Longines Singapore Gold Cup winner.
TRIAL 4 (TEST)
1 Ninetysix Power (Beasley)
2 Demon King (S Noh)
3 Super Eight (Brown)
4 Suvarnabhumi (M Kellady)
5 BM Power (M Ewe)
Margins and time: 3¾, 5½, nk, ns (1:00.93)
The field started well. Ninetysix Power (blinkers-pacifiers) was ridden to the front. He kicked away to a two-length lead at the 600m mark from BM Power (blinkers) and Demon King (blinkers). Suvarnabhumi (starting stall), who was well up early, dropped to the rear to accompany Super Eight (blinkers).
Ninetysix Power straightened up two lengths clear of Demon King. BM Power eased back third on the rails and was ridden out but made no impression. Beasley lifted his whip in the final 200m but did not apply it on his mount. He just waved it beside the horse's right eye to remind his mount of his obligation to keep going. Ninetysix Power went to to beat Demon King by three and three-quarter lengths.
TRIAL 5 (PRACTICE)
1 Italian Job
2 Emperor Max (Brown)
3 Born To Fly (Y Ruzaili)
4 Dragon Dynasty (Beasley)
5 Iking (H Amin)
6 Karratha Calling (A'Isisuhairi)
7 Bale Star (Vorster)
8 You Da One (J Powell)
9 Hardcore Rock (Shafiq)
Margins and time: 2¾, nk, ¾, nk, 4, ½, nk, 1¼ (1:00.99)
A good start. Italian Job led from Karratha Calling, who was pulling hard and Emperor Max wide. At the 600m mark, Italian Job was a length clear of Karratha Calling, who had his head on his chest, and Emperor Max wide. Bale Star was right behind, followed by the rest spread across the track with Dragon Dynasty widest.
Italian Job led nicely into the straight from Karratha Calling, who soon dropped out. Emperor Max cruised under his own steam. Iking was next with Born To Fly. Italian Job kept up a bright gallop in the final 200m to beat Emperor Max, who could have gone closer if he wanted to.
TRIAL 6 (PRACTICE)
1 Zac Command (Amin)
2 Dragon Fury (Beasley)
3 Double Jeopardy (Shafiq)
4 Stanzout (Zuriman)
5 Sky Eleven (Munro)
6 Big Heart (Rehaizat)
7 Entirely Possible (A Feiruz)
Margins and time: Nk, 7¼, 1¼, nk, 2½, 1 (1:01.29)
Entirely Possible was slow into stride and trailed.
Dragon Fury was the first to go and led from Zac Command and Sky Eleven. Dragon Fury initially led by about two lengths but was only a length in front Zac Command and Sky Eleven, both covering a bit of ground on the outside. A gap of six came Big Heart, A length behind came Stanzout, who headed the rest.
Dragon Fury was first for home but was tackled by Zac Command. Sky Eleven had had enough. The two leaders cleared away from the final 200m and fought all the way to the post, with Zac Command winning by a neck.
TRIAL 7 (PRACTICE)
1 Zac Warrior (Amin)
2 Supersonicsurprise (KB Soo)
3 Thunder Cat (Beasley)
4 Yellow Bird (Chavez)
5 Mr Patron (TR Barnabas)
6 Smart Money (Brown)
Margins and time: Hd, ½, 8, 2¼, 5½ (1:01.65)
Thunder Cat and Supersonicsurprise were the quickest to begin.
Supersonicsurprise held a slim lead but Thunder Cat slipped up on his inside to draw level at the 600m mark. Mr Patron was three lengths away, with eight lengths to Zac Warrior. Then came Smart Money and Yellow Bird wide.
The two leaders were four lengths clear of Mr Patron going into the straight. Supersonicsurprise was whacked from the final 200m but could not shake off Thunder Cat, who was on cruise control. As the two horses were battling it out, Zac Warrior slipped up on the rails and beat them.