Gray misses Raffles Cup but gets a four-timer
Bitter-sweet day at the office for Kiwi trainer
Kiwi trainer Stephen Gray took the training honours hands down at Kranji on Sunday with a magnificent four-timer, even if the one that mattered - the Group 1 Raffles Cup - got away.
Gray's day began on a half-winning note, but a win nonetheless, when newcomer Little Master dead-heated with Lim's Pershing in Race 2.
He doubled the score with Murrayfield three races later, before handing owner Paul Hickman a second win with long shot Golden Curl in Race 8.
The Gray yard could only hope the rampant form would continue in the $700,000 Raffles Cup over 1,800m but Lim's Cruiser could finish only third to shock winner Gilt Complex.
That mood dampener was, however, quickly forgotten when another Lim's, and quite possibly the champion owner's next rising star, Lim's Magic, despatched his rivals with a stylish win in the last race, the $60,000 Class 4 race over 1,400m.
An impressive winner at his last start in an Initiation race over 1,400m three weeks ago, the Manhattan Rain four-year-old did not let down his backers who braved his outside alley to take him at $9.
After improving from a rearward position, but three wide without cover at the 900m mark, Lim's Magic was simply unrelenting when he exploded away 300m out, albeit still green as grass.
Humdinger (Nooresh Juglall), who began from even further off the track, nipped at the heels of Lim's Magic throughout, and was the only one chipping away at the margin in the home stretch, but that was because jockey Glen Boss had already switched off the engine 50m out.
The Bruce Marsh-trained six-year-old managed to whittle down the gap on Lim's Magic to one length, with Mr Exchequer third, one-and-a-quarter lengths away.
The winning time was 1min 23.98sec on the Long Course B.
"He was three wide with no cover, but he was still very impressive. He also ran time," said Gray.
"I don't have anything in mind for him, just take him through his grades, but he's obviously an exciting horse and we will look after him."
On his superb day at the office, Gray paid tribute to the backroom boys as well as the owners.
"I have the chance to have a good crew behind me, from Mike Shaw, Nick Selvan to the track riders and boys," said Gray, who sits in eighth spot on the Singapore trainer's premiership on 44 winners.
"I'd like to thank the team, the boys at home are the ones who make things happen, but also the owners who have bought good horses for me to train."
The only bitter pill to swallow on the day was Lim's Cruiser's third place in the Raffles Cup with Glen Boss astride. It was the gelding's sixth consecutive defeat since his outstanding Group 1 Lion City Cup (1,200m) victory in April, but Gray was not all that disappointed.
"He was brilliantly ridden. It's just that he doesn't stay," said Gray.
"He still had a great year for us. He is the best sprinter and for him to run third over 1,800m was pretty amazing.
"I'm very proud of him even if it's been very frustrating."
Boss was able to ride at the Raffles Cup meeting after an appeal against the severity of 10-day suspension he incurred in Caulfield last week was allowed.
He took over Perth jockey William Pike's seven rides, including Lim's Cruiser, but had to wait until the last ride to finally salute the judge.
"I made no bones about how seriously talented this horse is," said the unabashed admirer of Lim's Magic.
"Today, he was three wide and green. Nothing went right for him, but he still played with them, it was ridiculous.
"I think there'll be a trip to the paddock for him now, so he can mature further. I think he will go up to a mile eventually."