Racing

Clements, Walker play tit for tat

Clements takes the lead with early treble, but Walker regains driver's seat with own three-timer

The battle for training honours between the circuit's two top protagonists - three-time champion Mark Walker and Michael Clements - kept racegoers in suspense over the weekend.

Walker went into Saturday's Kranji meeting with a two-winner lead, but Clements fired an early hat-trick in Races 2, 3 and 4 to take over the driver's seat with the score at 37-36.

His winners were Tiger Roar, who beat stablemate Day Approach, Jacksa and Pattaya respectively. Jacksa beat Walker's Showbound.

But the Zimbabwe-born trainer's joy was shortlived, as the Kiwi trainer also snared a treble later - with Brutus, who beat Clements' Tuesday in Race 7, I Am Sacred in Race 10 and Hidden Promise in Race 11.

Walker's winning trio were ridden by Ruan Maia, who made it four-up with the James Peters-trained Yulong Fast Steed, who deadheated with the Jason Lim-trained Romantic in the penultimate race.

The red-hot Brazilian has brought his tally to 41 winners, just seven behind Vlad Duric. The latter will be back this Saturday after serving a two-day suspension for careless riding.

With his treble, it is back to status quo, with Walker remaining in the lead by two winners with his 39-winner tally.

Lady Luck finally smiled on his charge Brutus, who went into the $75,000 Novice event over the Polytrack 1,200m with three seconds and four thirds from as many starts.

But it was close call. The four-year-old outlasted Clements' smart debut winner Tuesday by just a nose .

While praising Maia for riding a good race, Walker reckoned that it was Brutus' experience that won the day.

"As for the race itself, I left it to Ruan to ride his own race. I think it also helped him that Brutus has more race experience than a few of those, like the second horse, who won well on debut," he said.

Walker was glad that I Am Sacred, a debut winner, was back at the winner's enclosure in the $50,000 Class 4 Div 1 event over the Poly 1,100m. The horse was a disappointing second-up over 1,200m under apprentice jockey Mohammad Nizar.

"At his last start, he got an ordinary ride. He went too hard in front," he said.

"I gave him a freshen-up and brought him back to 1,100m. Today, he relaxed nicely with the tongue tie on for the first time.

"It was all speed on paper in this race, and we wanted to teach him to settle behind runners. Ruan has very good hands and settled him beautifully."

Clements' treble brought some joy over the demise of his crack sprinter Bold Thruster, following a serious leg injury last Thursday.

"It's been a sad week for us, but this treble will cheer us up a little," he said.

HORSE RACING