Elite Excalibur scores deserving victory
Cliff Brown-trained 5YO beats stablemate Elite Invincible in $200,000 Group 3 Committee's Prize
After three narrow placings in Group 1, Elite Excalibur secured a win he richly deserves - the $200,000 Group 3 Committee's Prize over 1,600m at Kranji yesterday.
The five-year-old's victory gave big-race specialist Cliff Brown his first Committee's Prize and the second for jockey Michael Rodd, who won the race with Flax in 2015.
It was a 1-2 finish for Elite Performance Stable. Its other runner, Elite Invincible, finished second by a neck. Elite Invincible was saddled by a different trainer, Mark Walker.
Third, one-and-a-quarter lengths behind, was the unlucky Well Done, who jumped from the widest draw in the capacity field of 16 and had nowhere to go at the top of the straight.
Reigning Horse of the Year Infantry was fourth.
Elite Excalibur was beaten by a short head by Alibi in the Group 1 Patron's Bowl and was again second in the Group 1 Raffles Cup by one-and-three-quarter lengths behind stablemate Gilt Complex.
Then last start, he finished a narrow third in the Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup behind Gilt Complex, going down by just two short heads.
Fresh from a spell after that Nov 12 Gold Cup outing, Elite Excalibur's big victory yesterday was obviously a training feat by Brown.
The race started with a bunch of horses vying for the lead. It took a while before Twickenham, who was bidding for a Committee's Prize hat-trick, took up the lead by about a length.
Forever Young was next, closely followed Quechua, Mr Fantastic and Preditor. Then came newcomer Circuit Land, Infantry and Elite Excalibur. Elite Invincible was slightly further back.
Twickenham shook off Forever Young on straightening. Jockey Glen Boss punched up Infantry, the $18 favourite, with a good run. On the outside, the two Elite horses moved up menacingly in tandem.
The three horses joined the tiring Twickenham at the 200m mark. Then it was down to two, with Elite Excalibur and Elite Invincible fighting hammer and tongs to the post.
In an exciting finish, Elite Excalibur got the verdict by a neck in a fast 1min 33.88sec, which was just 0.27sec outside Super Ninetyseven's 2013 record.
Supported late to third favourite, the winner paid $26.
"Look, he really deserves it," said Brown. "The staff has done a great job, you know. Three or four weeks ago, I wasn't really happy with him and I changed a few things around and you could see him change and come on.
"I just put the winkers on, because I thought his trial was a bit flat and he's getting a bit older. I think he was pretty unlucky in the Gold Cup. He's just beaten a half-head, a half-head. Today, he deserves it."
Brown has now earmarked Elite Excalibur for the $1.5 million Group 1 Kranji Mile in May, which is now an invitation race.
Rodd was full of praise for his winning partner.
"Great performance, always thought he could do it," he said. "It's not a traditional preparation, you know, coming into a big race first-up over a mile but Cliff knows his horse inside-out.
"The horse is an athlete, he's clean-winded and he's got an engine, you know. He just had the perfect run in the race. I was able to get on Glen Boss' back about the 1,300m and that made my race.
"I knew he was going to make the right decision, so I just relaxed and switched off myself. I just got one job to do and that was to stay on Glen's tail.
"I just waited till he straightened up and, when I clicked up, my bloke just came into the bridle. He doesn't have a great turn of foot but he kept coming.
"You know, he's very tough and very arrogant. He just doesn't want horses to get past him. When the other Elite horse came next to me, I knew my bloke would keep his head in front. I didn't panic. I've got a lot of confidence in him. It's great."