Guru-Guru gets it in three-way finish
Group 3 New Year Cup
GUGU-GURU, given a 10-out-of-10 ride by veteran Malaysian jockey Azhar Ismail, got up in the last few strides to capture the first feature of the year in an exciting finish on Sunday, the opening day of the 2017 Singapore racing season.
The Desmond Koh-trained and Tan Huat-owned four-year-old lifted the $200,000 Group 3 New Year Cup by half a length from Big Brother, one of newly-licenced trainer Ricardo Le Grange's four runners, in the 1,900m race on the Polytrack.
Third, a head away, was outsider Castor.
Although the leaders went at a fast pace, the winning time was rather slow, 1min 59.13sec.
This was 3.4sec outside the record set by last year's winner Perfect P, who could only finish fourth.
The field of 12 got off well and there was a scramble for the lead. Castor pulled hard and got up to eyeball Time Odyssey passing the winning post for the first time. Bring Money Home and last-year's third placegetter and Guru-Guru's stablemate Order Of The Sun were next.
While Castor was saved up, Bring Money Home and Order Of The Sun went up to dispute the lead with Time Odyssey turning into the backstraight.
Castor was next, accompanied by Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes winner Daniel who stuck to the rail for the shortest route home. Azhar parked Guru-Guru slightly worse than midfield, with his mount travelling nice and relaxed. Big Brother was beside him.
Time Odyssey and Bring Money Home dropped off Order Of The Sun at the halfway stage. Daniel moved up. Azhar also made his move, albeit a bit wide.
Time Odyssey hit the front on straightening, where Bring Money Home had had enough and was drifting wide. But the early speed duel took its toll on the $22 favourite. He was overtaken by the grey Daniel 300m out. Daniel kicked to a clear lead but soon laboured under the top impost of 58kg.
Castor and Big Brother loomed up to challenge Daniel and soon got the uuperhand.
But, on the outside, Azhar brought Guru-Guru home with a strong run and punched home a deserving winner.
The top trio were three of the five contenders handicapped on the minimum 50kg in the race.
Guru-Guru, who paid $50 for a win, was unlucky to be left out of last November's $1.35 million Dester Singapore Gold Cup. He failed to qualify when losing by only a short head to Bahana in the Group 3 El Dorado Classic.
Bahana went on capture the blue riband of the Singapore turf with only 50.5kg on his back and in a slow time (2min 17.42sec), while Guru-Guru finished a narrow third in a faster-run race (2min 16.88sec) in the consolation event on the same day with 56kg. Theoretically, he could have beaten Bahana.
"I wish I could get a run at the last Gold Cup but this one makes up for it, I guess," said trainer Koh.
"He's just a four-year-old and there is still a lot more we can do with him. We'll just keep trying our best.
"It's a good way to start the year for myself and the owner. There was good pace in the race and he just rallied the field, which was good."
Koh then praised Azhar, a multiple champion jockey in Malaysia who has been having a lean time in recent years.
"He's a veteran in the game. He knows his races very well. He's a multiple champion in Malaysia, so I let him be the jockey and let him do his work. He knows what to do."
Azhar certainly has an affinity with Guru-Guru. He was on top in two of the gelding's three earlier victories.
"This horse is just fantastic, you know. He goes well for me and I have to give credit to trainer Desmond Koh for maintaining the horse in top form," said the 53-year-old.