'The Count' serves a warning
The Kranji Mile aspirant wins terrific trial at Kranji on Tuesday morning
You've got to feel for Countofmontecristo.
His namesake in that 19th century Alexandre Dumas literary classic escapes from prison and inflicts torment on his enemies.
Not so, "our" Countofmontecristo. When is he ever going to escape the shackles of Debt Collector?
Already twice this season - and both times in high-class races - he has been forced to play second fiddle in races orchestrated and won by the local champion.
The first time this term was on March 10 when, in a $100,000 Class 1 affair over the 1,400m on grass, "The Count" was yelled the winner 200m out when Glen Boss got him to the front.
It looked like he had escaped. Alas, it was shortlived. In the shades of the winning post, Debt Collector swooped. With Michael Rodd riding hell for leather, Countofmontecristo was caught.
A month later, in the Chairman's Trophy, the pair again faced off. That time they both chose to loll near the rear, eyeballing each other as another battle raged up front.
They both made their moves in the stretch. Debt Collector and "The Count". Rodd and Boss. And again, it was Debt Collector who consigned Countofmontecristo to that evil dungeon reserved for placegetters.
They will meet again on an even bigger stage - the $1.5 million Group 1 Kranji Mile on May 25 - and The Count will want nothing more than to beat his nemesis.
From Michael Clements yard, he took another step towards that goal when he won a trial at Kranji on Tuesday morning. Debt Collector was in the line-up and the champ finished seventh in that field of nine.
Don't hold that against Debt Collector but, for a moment, let's give Countofmontecristo his due.
He ran a terrific trial, winning the 1,000m sprint in a time of 59.58sec.
In the saddle, Boss allowed his mount to roll along in fourth spot early. All the while Debt Collector was last as Super Power, Charger and Super Dynasty knocked each other out as they battled for the lead.
Into the stretch and Boss pushed Countofmontecristo into overdrive. The five-year-old took flight, collared Super Power 100m out and rushed clear.
Clarton Super, now out of the Kranji Mile but contesting the Lion City Cup, came home with a well-timed run to take third.
As for Debt Collector, he had gathered up speed - and as is his style - he was doing his best work late. From being five lengths behind the second last horse 300m from home, he easily gobbled up the stragglers to be seventh - just about six lengths behind "The Count".
It was a solid piece of work. No doubt about it. But the "honours" were with Countofmontecristo.
Indeed, in a post-trial interview, Boss said his mount gave him an "unbelievable feel".
"I have ridden this horse at his last three starts and I can tell that he is peaking at the right moment," he said.
" Debt Collector and Countofmontecristo are the best local horses in the Kranji Mile. Debt Collector is the better horse but my bloke is a close second."
Will the order be switched around in the big race on May 25? Let's see.