Double puts Clements back in front
Top-form trainer leads with 18 winners and has unbelievable strike rate
Did someone mention that trainer Michael Clements has been leading a charmed life since keeping an unshaven look and his long hair tied in a bun?
Well, whatever it is, the Zimbabwean-born trainer's stables have been firing on all cylinders since last year and his strike rate this season has been incredibly impeccable.
Not only has his double on Friday night put him back in the driver's seat, but it has surged his strike rate further to a very high 28.57 per cent with 18 winners from 63 runners.
Australian Steve Burridge, who overtook Clements twice for the lead, saddled only one unplaced runner on Friday night and remains on 16 winners. He has filed 115 runners this season for a 13.91 per cent strike rate.
This season's trainer's premiership looks interesting with four trainers tied in third place with 13 winners apiece, namely two-time champion Mark Walker, Shane Baertschiger, Lee Freedman and Leslie Khoo, who also saddled a double on Friday night.
Alwin Tan, the 2016 champion, is next with 12 winners, ditto Daniel Meagher.
On Friday, Clements had only four runners in three races and he scored with Amistad in the opening race and with Siam Sapphire in Race 7.
Amistad was urged to the front from his wide barrier by apprentice jockey S Shafrizal in the Class 5 event over the Polytrack 1,100m and it looked like he would fizzle out in the straight. But, instead, he kicked and his handy lead saw him lasting by a neck from last-start winner Secondwave.
Amistad started his career with Alwin Tan before Clements took over. The grey then went to Young Keah Yong and provided the new trainer with his first career winner, before the horse went back to Clements.
Siam Sapphire was a last-start even-money beaten favourite but found better luck on Friday.
After staying in the box-seat until the straight, he unleashed a top run to win to take the $80,000 Class 3 event over the Poly 1,200m by two-and-a-quarter lengths with leading jockey Vlad Duric atop.
It was the four-year-old's fourth success from 17 starts. He was second twice and third four times, amassing about $210,000 in stakes for Pupetch Racing Stable.
"He has been ultra consistent in his last five or six runs. Unfortunately, last start, not much went his way. He was sandwiched coming out of the barrier with Michael Rodd," said Clements, now a Singaporean.
"Then he had to race wide after that and, yeah, it didn't suit him although he still ran on fairly. He has been very consistent and he seems to go well on the Polytrack."
Although both Clements' last-start-winning runners in Race 3 failed to salute, they did not disappoint - Imperium finished third and Loving You eighth was behind the Khoo-trained Lord O'Reilly in a fast-run sprint in the $85,000 Novice event over 1,200m on turf. The winner clocked 1min 09.28sec.
"Imperium ran great. He wasn't great coming out of the barrier, but the pace was on and he seemed settled down, and ran on really strongly," said Clements.
"I'm pleased with his run, you know, and it will just take a bit of time to get things right. I think he's a nice horse going forward in the future - certainly on the way he ran on tonight.
"Look, Loving You is capable of a lot better than that. You have to bear in mind she has just turned three, she's still relatively young, she's still on the weak side, a small and light-weighted filly.
"We really have to put her away for now. We know she is capable but she probably just need to have a bit of break and strengthen now."