Infantry guns down Derby rivals
Trainer Alwin Tan saddles his first Emirates Singapore Derby winner
INFANTRY stepped up on his placings in the first two legs of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge to capture the final and richest leg at Kranji yesterday.
Second in the $300,000 Group 2 Stewards' Cup over 1,400m on May 28 and third in the $500,000 Group 1 Patron's Bowl over 1,600m on June 18, Infantry scored a decisive one-length victory in the $1.15 million Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby over 2,000m.
His win gave trainer Alwin Tan his first Derby success, after seeing his former champion War Affair being beaten a neck by Quechua two years ago.
NUNES' SECOND DERBY
For jockey Manoel Nunes, it was his second Derby triumph, after Spalato in 2014.
Alibi, winner of the first two legs of this Four-Year-Old series and trying to be the first to win the Grand Slam for four-year-olds, finished fourth yesterday.
Second was Lim's Samurai and third was Infantry's stablemate Nova Strike.
The $17 favourite Lim's Cruiser, who was third in the Stewards' Cup and fourth in the Patron's Bowl, finished sixth.
The race was so open, especially when most of the 15 runners had yet to win over the 2,000m trip, that Infantry, Alibi and Patron's Bowl runner-up Elite Excalibur shared second favouritism at $28 for a win.
The Derby, which was shown live on Channel NewsAsia, Hub Sports Arena and Eleven Sports Network, got off to a fairly good start in front of the grandstand.
Alibi started beautifully under jockey Glen Boss and crossed in from his wide barrier to share the lead with Preditor until passing the winning post for the first time, where Sun Hoplites took over the role of pacemaker.
Sun Hoplites was a length in front of Preditor turning into the back straight.
Alibi and Nova Strike were next, two lengths behind, followed by Infantry having a cushy run on the rails and covered by Lim's Cruiser.
Then came Justice Fair and Lim's Samurai.
Sun Hoplites back-pedalled on straightening. Preditor was left in front. Infantry loomed up menacingly on the outside with Alibi sticking to the rails. Nova Strike, Lim's Cruiser and Lim's Samurai plugged on behind them.
Infantry hit the front at the 300m mark and started to pull away, leaving the rest to fight for the minor placings. Lim's Samurai got up to beat Nova Strike by a neck for second.
Infantry clocked 2min 02.29sec for the 2,000m trip on the short course.
Trainer Tan deserved accolades for tuning the New Zealand-bred gelding by Tavistock to stay the trip.
Pre-race, the reigning champion had rated Infantry as the best of his trio (his other runner Absolute Miracle finished eighth). He had injected a lot of endurance work into his Group 2 Merlion Trophy-Group 3 JBBA Moonbeam Vase winner.
The Singaporean trainer was choked with emotion as he gave his post-race interview.
"Wow, that kind of feeling, I can't find the words to describe it," he said, his voice quivering and his eyes welled in tears.
"He has got a big heart and he puts in his best in every race and, yes, 100 per cent, Nunes knows this horse very well. You know, like when to let go, and today he did a very good job."
Nunes had partnered Infantry in his last four of seven previous victories but could not ride the horse in the Patron's Bowl as he had injured his ankle on June 11.
In an operation the following day, a screw was fitted to his left ankle and the three-time Singapore champion bounced back riding on Friday.
The Brazilian called his quick recovery "a miracle" and thanked Tan and Infantry's Thai-owned outfit, Kajorn Petch Racing No. 2 Stable, for the ride, as well as the doctor who treated him.
"I can tell you it's unbelievable to come back in three weeks and be able to ride this horse. So I'm very, very pleased," he said.
"Well, you know, I know this horse very well. He's the kind of horse who doesn't like to chase and doesn't like to be held back. Have to ride him wherever he is happy.
"Today, he just broke very good and I was in a good position and let Boss cross me round the first turn, and then my horse was travelling so well.
"Beasley (Lim's Cruiser) was beside me and I told him I was in a lovely position and I knew I have plenty of horse underneath me.
"The horse travelled so well. At the 600m, he just came by himself and, in the straight, he was just too good for them."