Sports

A winning riff from Johnny Guitar

IMPRESSIVE: Johnny Guitar winning Race 8 with John Powell astride yesterday.

With the Singapore Triple Crown Series on the horizon, classy galloper JOHNNY GUITAR's return to form has come at the perfect time for trainer Patrick Shaw.

The Argentine-bred brown gelding visited the winner's circle for the first time in six months with a slashing victory in the New Zealand Racing Board Trophy yesterday.

Ridden for the first time by John Powell, taking over from the injured Barend Vorster, who did some of his early trackwork when the son of Lode arrived in Singapore earlier this year, Johnny Guitar extended his formidable record over the mile.

He kicked clear to win the $125,000 Kranji Stakes A race over 1,600m, finishing two lengths clear of DUJARDIN (M Nunes) with stablemate LIZARRE (N Juglall) another half-length back in third in 1min 41.09sec.

Winless since his victory in the Group 3 Polytrack Mile Championship on March 7, Johnny Guitar has featured in a number of high-profile assignments for his South African mentor, including May's Singapore Airlines International Cup (2,000m), and while never disgracing himself, success at the top tier was proving elusive.

Being sent for a freshen-up and out of action for 49 days has worked like a treat though, as Johnny Guitar ($15) will head into the Group 1 Panasonic Kranji Mile on Oct 5 with the sweet taste of success.

"He wasn't actually supposed to run this week but we made the late decision and he delivered a really good run," said Shaw. "He won at his only other start on the Polytrack and has done it again. I'm very happy with the way he raced."

What was equally pleasing for the 2011 champion trainer was the way Johnny Guitar (a two-time Group 1 winner at San Isidro) found that extra gear and explosive kick that appeared to be missing for a while down the straight to tear away from the rest of the five horses.

PROSPECT

It sets him up nicely for a stab at the Kranji Mile in three weeks and Shaw was licking his lips at the prospect of unleashing Johnny Guitar, who has now won five times and has two thirds from eight career starts over the 1,600m trip, in the $500,000 contest.

"There are a few runners who will give him a challenge in it but I think he'll run a good race in it," said Shaw.

"Then he'll go for the Raffles Cup (1,800m) and Gold Cup (2,200m). I think he still has the potential to be an 1,800m horse."