Excelling upsets Bold Thruster
Lee Freedman-trained $130 outsider fends off the $9 favourite in $250,000 Group 2 Merlion Trophy
Excelling, a $130 outsider, played giant slayer in the $250,000 Group 2 Merlion Trophy in Race 12 at Kranji yesterday, defeating the $9 favourite Bold Thruster by half a length.
It was the second time in a week that Lady Luck deserted trainer Michael Clements in a feature race. Just a week earlier, his star duo - Top Knight and the $11 favourite Countofmontecristo - finished second and third respectively to the Shane Baertschiger-trained Aramaayo in the $1 million Group 1 Kranji Mile.
Excelling, one of the four three-figure outsiders in the field of nine Merlion Trophy contenders, was ridden to perfection by jockey A'Isisuhairi Kasim, who has forged a strong partnership with the winning trainer.
He and Australian Hall of Famer Lee Freedman have teamed up with a few winners since fate brought them together during the Covid-19 circuit-breaker period.
Freedman's Augustano, another long shot at $142, set a brisk pace yesterday.
He led by nearly a length with a 23.48sec sectional from a tight bunch, namely $23 third favourite Surpass Natural, My Dreamliner ($271), Zac Kasa ($69) and Bold Thruster, who was trapped wide after exiting the widest barrier.
Excelling was right behind on the rails, covered by River Radiance ($98). Skywalk, the $21 second favourite, and $191 outsider Be Bee were last.
Jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin niggled Bold Thruster to get closer to the leader but straightened wide.
Surpass Natural also made his bid. A'Isisuhairi already had Excelling up behind the leaders' backs. He went through a nice gap at the 300m mark and pinched a nice lead.
Bold Thruster and Surpass Natural lunged at him late, but the bird had flown. Excelling won by half a length for his fifth success from 10 Kranji starts.
Bold Thruster headed out Surpass Natural for second placing.
The fast pace enabled Excelling to clock 1min 10.21sec, a new class record, for the Polytrack 1,200m.
The Merlion Trophy is the second feature after the Kranji Mile to be run behind closed doors because of the Covid-19 situation.
A'Isisuhairi said by telephone after the race that Freedman was happy with Excelling's condition and instructed him not to be upfront.
"He wanted me to sit comfortably, get him to travel and relax for the run home, which he did," said the Malaysian rider.
"He was travelling nice and strong, just behind the leaders and I thought the tempo was quite okay.
"The way he travelled I was quite confident in the run. I was just hoping that he would get a clear run in the home turn. I knew he could finish the race.
"At the last 200m, he kicked and held his position. I thought Bold Thruster was hard to beat, but everything worked out today. It is meant to be ours and I'm really happy about that."
A'Isisuhairi is thankful for Freedman's strong support.
"We are having a good relationship. We both have got some winners and I always believed I was going to ride a Group winner for Mr Freedman one day, and it happened today," he said.
"It happened very quickly, so things are going all right and I'm looking forward to ride more winners for him and the stable and, hopefully, we kick home the big one, one day."