Aramaayo avenges Singapore Derby defeat
Kranji Mile winner beats Sun Marshal and Countofmontecristo in Raffles Cup
Kranji Mile winner Aramaayo might have faltered as the $13 Singapore Derby favourite, but he quickly bounced back to erase that defeat with a thrilling victory in the $400,000 Group 1 Raffles Cup on Saturday.
Again, it was the magic of Brazilian jockey Ruan Maia who made the difference between winning and losing, by raising the tempo after a crawling 26.17sec first 400m sectional.
This enabled his mount to get up on the inside to beat last year's Derby winner Sun Marshal by a head.
Just a nose away in third was the ever-reliable Countofmontecristo, who once again found the Group 1 success elusive.
The slow pace in last month's Derby resulted in Aramaayo finishing fifth behind Top Knight, so it was a case of once bitten, twice shy for Maia.
He was last after the jump, trailing by about 10 lengths from the leader Loyalty Man, who led from stablemate Sun Marshal.
But, sensing that the pace was pedestrian, he took the initiative to pass a few with a ground-saving run on the inside.
Loyalty Man led by more than a length from Sun Marshal on settling down. Then came Trumpy and Minister, with Lim's Samurai splitting them.
The favourite Top Knight was kept slightly worse than midfield by champion jockey Vlad Duric, instead of being saved up at the tail in his previous races.
Minister moved up to join Loyalty Man and Sun Marshal shortly after straightening to make it a triple chance for trainer Lee Freedman.
Aramaayo had progressed further and went for the inside passage. Jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin elected the outside run for Countofmontecristo.
The two challengers charged up to the Freedman trio in the final 100m. Sun Marshal poked ahead but found no answer to Aramaayo's strong finish in the first leg of the Singapore Triple Crown Series.
Countofmontecristo was a gallant third. It was yet another case of so near and yet so far for him at Group 1 level.This was his sixth placing. He has won three Group 2s and two Group 3s.
Aramaayo clocked just a moderate 1min 36.28sec for the 1,600m due to the slow pace. He had won the $1 million Kranji Mile on Aug 16 in 1min 33.85sec.
Victory was Baertschiger's fourth Group 1 triumph, after Aramco in the Lion City Cup, I'm Incredible in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, both last year, and Aramaayo in the Kranji Mile.
He praised Maia for his initiative and brilliant ride.
"The pace was too slow in the Derby and he overraced. Today I told Maia to drop back, he's better ridden back," said the Australian, whose father Don won the Raffles Cup with Con Air in 2000.
"It was a brilliant ride from Maia. When they slowed down the pace, he made the right decision to improve on the inside.
"I was happy where he was throughout. I was not worried he was still around three lengths behind in the straight, as I know he can finish it off - and he was too good."
Aramaayo will press on to the second and final legs of the Triple Crown - the $400,000 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup over 1,800m on Oct 31 and the $1 million Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup over 2,000m on Nov 21.
Maia said Aramaayo jumped well but over-raced in the Derby because of the slow pace.
"If he had jumped too quick today, it would've been difficult to hold him," he added. "But he stayed quiet and I was able to drop him at the back.
"The plan was to be in the last three. But I was a bit afraid when they slowed down the pace.
" That's why I started to come into the race from the 800m as it's the short course and I didn't want to come in too late at the finish. I'm so happy I won my second Group 1 race in Singapore."