Golden Sword slays Kranji's equine giant
Trainer Cliff Brown's 5YO returns from year's spell to nab odds-on favourite Olympian Eager by short head
Burly two-from-two winner Olympian Eager was all the rage at $8 for a win at Kranji yesterday but fell to the sword - Golden Sword to be precise - right on the winning post.
The Cliff Brown-trained $54 winner was resuming from a 371-day break, which certainly did him a world of good after his bleeding attack.
The Gold Stable-owned five-year-old, who started his career promisingly in 2015 with three consecutive wins but had not won since, bled at his last start on Nov 20 last year. It earned him a three-month enforced layoff imposed on bleeders.
Brown said that Golden Sword could have made an earlier comeback but his charge bled again at the trials.
The break was the second in the chestnut gelding's career, having also been taken off racing for five-and-a-half months after a below-par performance in the $250,000 Group 3 Dester Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint over 1,200m on March 27 last year.
Although Golden Sword showed a glimpse of his old goodself with a second placing in his latest trial behind the unbeaten Nowyousee on Nov 9, most racing pundits had already thrown in their lots behind the David Kok-trained in-form Olympian Eager in Race 5 yesterday.
The Open Benchmark 67 event over the Polytrack 1,000m was deemed as Olympian Eager's to lose with his unbeaten winning run over the course and distance and impressive recent trial performance.
But the five-year-old, possibly the biggest horse at Kranji, was still a tad big, weighing 647kg yesterday, compared to 623kg and 637kg when he won.
Yet, Olympian Eager still ran his heart out for leading jockey Vlad Duric and was just a trifle unlucky to be denied victory at the last bounce by Golden Sword, who came from last under a strong ride by jockey Michael Rodd.
Golden Sword, the second leg of a double for Rodd and Brown, was caught on the back foot at the jump and saw them all.
Rodd, however, was unperturbed and just tracked the two horses in front of him, Conilad (Glen Boss) and Longhu (apprentice H Syafiq).
Champagne Rein was taken to the front by apprentice R Zawari, leading by two lengths from the $22 second-favourite Cadet (Barend Vorster).
Duric parked Olympian Eager in the box-seat third along the rails and bided his time.
Golden Sword was still last turning for home.
Champagne Rein kicked clear in the straight.
Cadet struggled to keep pace.
Duric knew it was time to close the gap, otherwise it would be in vain.
But the leader was stubborn indeed and it was only in the last 50m that Olympian Eager poked ahead.
Just when he was shouted the winner, Golden Sword thundered home to deny him his hat-trick bid by a short head.
Brown was rapt with Golden Sword's comeback victory and praised his team for it.
"This is great for everybody. Everyone has put a lot of work into him. He's had a lot of bleeding issues and everyone's done a good job on him," said the recent Dester Singapore Gold Cup-winning trainer.
"We had him ready to go and he bled in the trials, so we had to stop again, so the whole team deserves this one.
"We'll give him a good break again now and we'll find a race in the middle of January, something like that."
Rodd was just as delighted with Golden Sword's gallant comeback.
"He's a horse with a great deal of talent. He ran in a Group race and, you know, there were some decent horses that he was running behind," said the Gold Cup-winning jockey.
"He's proven on the Polytrack. Look, he has that 12 months off with the little bleeding issues but he gets treated now. He has sort of recaptured his old form.
"He made a meal of a start. He was standing quite good and, just as the last one was going in, he took a couple of steps back and just sort of reared in the air.
"But, as he came down, he hit the ground quickly and got running. He made up for it quickly and I didn't sort of use much of him.
"I just jumped on the back of Bossy and just followed wherever he went. You know, he just needed to produce a good finish and he did it."