Mr Hanks fends off Iffragal in Juvenile Championship
Aushorse Golden Horseshoe beaten favourite makes amends
After flopping as the $12 beaten favourite in the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe 23 days earlier, the real MR HANKS came out to redeem himself in the Group 3 Juvenile Championship at Kranji yesterday.
While it was all smiles in the Mr Hanks' camp, there were faces of dejection with the defeat of $12 favourite and unbeaten Be Bee, who raced a bit flat and could only finish fourth, close to six lengths adrift.
The Ricardo Le Grange-trained Iffragal made an enormous bid in the final drive to finish second by a head in the $200,000 feature, run for the first time over 1,400m.
The race was staged over 1,200m from its inception in 2002 to last year.
Third, one-and-three-quarter lengths behind, was the $15 second-favourite Ferocious, who was three-and-three-quarter lengths in front of Be Bee.
Trained by James Peters for CK Phua of Oscar Racing Stable, Mr Hanks drifted from second to third-favourite and paid $18 for a win.
The bay New Zealand-bred gelding was hailed as a star in the making after his authoritative debut victory on June 11 which led to his favouritism in the Aushorse race.
But, surprisingly, he was never in the hunt - probably a victim of the second-run syndrome - and finished 10th to fellow debut winner Be Bee, who was, on the other hand, a surprise $106 winner.
Had Be Bee won yesterday, he would no doubt be crowned Champion Two-Year-Old but Mr Hanks has now also put his hand up for that coveted title.
Yesterday's Juvenile Championship field was reduced to nine runners following the withdrawal of Glamorous, who was found to be lame behind the barrier stalls.
Ferocious, another smart debut winner and seventh in the Aushorse race, was slow into stride when the gates flew open.
Leading jockey Vlad Duric got Mr Hanks off to a brilliant start but Make U Famous charged to the front and led by two lengths.
Jockey Olivier Placais allowed Whistling Win to get to half a length of Make U Famous at the 900m mark but the leader kicked ahead again to show him his rump.
Mr Hanks was in the box-seat third alone, two lengths behind and one length ahead of Iffragal, Be Bee and Charger in a pack. Ferocious was last and a bit wide.
Whistling Win swept past the tiring Make U Famous turning into the long straight.
Duric peeled Mr Hanks out a few horses wide for a clear run and quickly zoomed to a commanding lead.
Be Bee tried hard under John Powell's riding but was one-paced. Even Iffragal and Ferocious quickly got past him.
Mr Hanks battled on under Duric's vigorous riding but Oscar Chavez brought Iffragal home with a blistering run in the final 100m but his effort was too late.
Mr Hanks held on to win by a head, much to the relief of his connections and supporters, especially his trainer.
"It was a long last 50m. I could see Ricky's horse coming and I was just hoping we would hold on," said an obviously relieved Peters.
"Vlad kicked a long way from home and I was a touch concerned. But the horse was very tough. He tried very hard and, obviously, he has got a lot of ability.
"I thought there would be a little bit more pace from out wide, but that's the benefit of having a good draw (No. 3). You can just jump and be wherever you are comfortable.
"He had a beautiful run round and Vlad got him out into clear room. He didn't want to get pocketed, I think. That's why he had to go so early."
Duric himself felt he hit the front too soon and joked about his fear of facing Peters if he had lost the race.
"Actually, I wasn't sure whether he had won, you know. It was a photo-finish, so I thought James was going to kill me for getting beat here. But all credit goes to the horse," said the Australian.
On the race, he said: "He jumped well and I was just looking for a couple to go early. I really wanted to get a bit of cover with the blinkers on for the first time.
"I was exposed for a fair bit in the early part of the race and, once Olivier crossed me, my horse settled nicely.
"I had so much horse coming round the corner and I actually had to pop away from Olivier's heels for a few strides and he just came into the race quite too soon."
Luckily for Duric, the huge lead that he built up saved the day.