Gilt Complex strikes Gold in dramatic three-way finish
Trainer Cliff Brown's charge achieves rare Raffles Cup-Singapore Gold Cup double
The roar at Kranji yesterday could sort of match that of Kallang's during the Malaysia Cup days.
Instead of tall men dribbling a ball to try and hit it into the back of the net, four horses with little fellas in colourful silks, and then three, charged to the wire as one in one of the most breath-taking finishes seen in the Singapore Gold Cup, the island republic's blue riband of the turf.
It was "double miracle" horse Gilt Complex who touched the line first by a mere nose from defending Gold Cup champion Bahana, with just a short head to Elite Excalibur, in the $1.35 million Dester Singapore Gold Cup, the final leg of the Singapore Triple Crown Series.
In winning the Group 1 feature over the gruelling 2,200m, the Cliff Brown-trained $33 second-favourite became only the third horse to achieve the Raffles Cup-Gold Cup double.
The last horse to score the incredulous brace was Zirna in 2003. Smart Bet did it a year earlier.
While the Gold Cup was inaugurated in 1924, the Raffles Cup, which was the second leg of the Triple Crown, was incepted in 1991 over 1,600m and the distance was changed to 1,800m from 2001.
Yesterday's Gold Cup was indeed a race full of suspense and worthy of its label as Singapore's richest race, and racegoers were simply thrilled with the drama unfolding in the long straight.
But, at one stage, Gilt Complex appeared to be a goner but he found a second wind that took him zooming to the last-gasp victory.
Jockey Michael Rodd jumped the six-year-old New Zealand-bred well and parked his mount sixth as they raced past the half-way mark.
The leader Order Of The Sun was slightly ahead of dual-Group winner Forever Young. Bahana was two lengths away in third, followed stablemate and last year's fourth place-getter Newlands, who clipped the heels of Bahana at the 700m mark, blundered and dropped right back to the rear. Elite Excalibur was next.
The two leaders back-pedalled shortly after straightening. Bahana and Elite Excalibur pounced to the front. Majestic Moments, sixth last year, moved up and crossed Gilt Complex but could not get past Bahana and Elite Excalibur, who fought like gladiators in the arena of death.
With 150m left, Gilt Complex ducked to the inside and started to rev up. He closed in with every stride as his backers watched with bated breath.
In the exciting dash to the line, Gilt Complex put his nose down where it mattered most to deny Bahana of a rare back-back-back Gold Cup success.
Winning owner Graham Mackie thought that his horse could run only fourth at best when Bahana, Elite Excalibur and Majestic Moments kicked on strongly.
"I thought he had no hope of running in the first three, he was probably going to run fourth," said the owner of Christopher G Stable.
"But, all of a sudden, the horse started going again, you know. The three horses upfront had effectively cut him off, not on purpose, so the jockey had got to go right to the inside because he knew a miracle might happen.
"Luckily, he had such a great jockey that could use his left hand and get the horse going again. It's a miracle.
"We've got two miracles now. He had a miracle as we gave him no chance when he won the Raffles Cup (at $222 for a win) and now he has got another miracle as he was completely beaten but came back again to win."
A breathless Rodd was simply over the moon with the "emotional" win.
"I was going nowhere at the 600m. I was just tacking onto the horses in front and I thought I would run a nice fourth, and he just sort of got his second wind halfway up the straight," said the Melbourne Cup-winning rider.
"I just let him go to the fence - he spotted the fence - and he found another gear. This is so special. I've been so lucky since I've been here. This ride is so special for me, emotionally. This is incredible."
For Brown, the wait for the photo-finish verdict was akin to waiting for the birth of a new-born.
"That was fantastic, Elite Excalibur was tremendous and Bahana is a natural stayer, so I actually thought we got beaten," said the Australian, affectionately known as Group 1 Cliff for his host of such successes.
"So, when it came out, I did let out a bit of a roar there. I really did. Very happy.
"I actually walked away and was pacing like the children were going to get born. I was up and down, up and down, so that was really good.
"This means a great deal. We had a few placings and to win one is fantastic. The kids at home will be rapt. The kids are really starting to like the races, so doubly pumped."