Don De La Vega shows guts and resilience
Trainer Cliff Brown calls winner 'a nice horse going somewhere'
A good second placing third-up last start and a good trial win last week, so you could say the form was there.
Throw in a good and calculated ride by in-form apprentice Amirul Ismadi and it was no surprise to see Don De La Vega carving a popular victory in Race 2 at Kranji yesterday.
Despite his good form, the Cliff Brown-trained three-year-old did not start as the favourite - the Ricardo Le Grange-trained Tesoro Privado was at $13 - but the smart money was there all the same.
Punters made him the $18 second fancy in the Restricted Maiden event over 1,400m on the Short Course D.
Ridden by jockey Barend Vorster, Tesoro Privado started best but was hounded by a bunch of horses, including Don De La Vega, who was trapped widest.
Amirul, who is heading for a learning trip in Tasmania next month, was instructed to sit behind the pace but had to fall back on Plan B when no-one was keen to play the rabbit's role.
The promising rookie took the initiative to giddy up and cut in to lead, instead of being kept wide and running a longer race than the rest.
The move certainly paid off, as Don De La Vega was removed from the pressure cooker and led past the 600m mark easily by about a length from the Leslie Khoo-trained $100 outsider Basilisk.
Then came Tesoro Privado on the shortest route home and covered by Mighty Phoenix, and Brown's second runner, Foresto.
Basilisk got up to Don De La Vega on straightening.
Tesoro Privado made his bid on the inside but was not making much headway despite being scrubbed.
Although jockey Olivier Placais gave his best on Basilisk, his mount could not get past the top-form Don De La Vega, who kicked on again from the final 150m to win by half a length at start No. 4 for Barree Stable, the owner of Horse of the Year Debt Collector.
Tesoro Privado could only take third spot, a length away.
Amirul, fresh from his double for his master Stephen Gray last Sunday, thanked Brown for giving him the opportunity and congratulated the stable for putting in the hard work into the horse.
"I didn't want to lead but nobody seemed to want to lead," said the son of former champion local jockey-turned-trainer Ismadi Ismail.
"I took a hold and then I had to follow my gut feeling, which was to cross in and take the lead, and into the straight, he was just beautiful. He lengthened up to the winning post nicely."
Brown was pretty pleased with Amirul's ride and his charge's gutsy win.
"He's a tough horse. As you can see, he gets on his toes a bit, so it takes a lot of work and it was good to see him doing it," said last Sunday's Raffles Cup-winning trainer.
"We wanted to get a seat but nothing wanted to lead. He was overdoing it, so he did well with Amirul."
Brown drew comparison to Don De La Vega's fighting second behind Silent Boss last start when he also showed guts and resilience to the line.
"He knuckled down. He did that the other day, too. He got to the front and Silent Boss came at him, and he kicked again, so he's a nice horse going somewhere."
But the Brown-trained winner now upper-most on racegoers' mind is Fillibuster, who set a new course record for the Polytrack 1,100m at only her second start on Friday.
Despite having wasted a lot of energy from the long time taken to load her into the barrier, the filly easily made it two from two with another all-the-way victory in 1min 04.16sec.
"Look, she's a remarkable filly," said Brown, whose Certainly came from a long last to post a $391 surprise in the last race and give apprentice K Nuh his first winner at his 24th ride.
"She came home and ate up everything. We got back by 10.30pm and she licked the bin the next morning.
"So, she'll have a break and we'll work on the barrier and see how we go."