Heartening Flyer targets Derby

Clements' exciting four-time winner in five starts developing stamina to go the 1,800m Derby trip

Two of reigning champion trainer Michael Clements' horses resumed for their first start this year and both returned good.

Heartening Flyer, back from a 41/2-month spell, scored convincingly in Saturday's $70,000 Fortune Ox Stakes for Class 3 horses over 1,200m, although the trip was deemed a little short.

It was the Tivic Stable-owned four-year-old New Zealand-bred's fourth success in just five starts and good things are coming up his way.

Stablemate Spirit Of Big Bang, who resumed from an even longer break - 13 months - because of a leg fracture, ran a pleasing third in the same race.

The Team Cheval & Goldenhill Stable-owned six-year-old Irish-bred, who proved ultra consistent with three wins and three seconds from six previous starts, will also be heading for better things, if all goes right.

Heartening Flyer was rested after his last-start hard-fought Class 4 victory on Sept 26 last year over 1,400m.

Saturday's 1,200m trip was considered a tad short in his comeback. But, fresh for the task and with the benefit of an economical run from the inner-most barrier, he produced a great turn of foot once jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin peeled him off for his run from behind Makkem Lad and Siam Warrior.

Sent out the short-priced favourite at $9, Heartening Flyer went on to win by two easy lengths in 1min 09.12sec.

Clements' assistant trainer Michael White said he dreaded only the distance, but the horse's ability saw him through.

"He was going up in class after a break, but was back in trip. And if he was to be beaten one day, today was the day," said White.

"But he's come back a better horse. He still had a look around when he hit the front, but he can switch off better and is going the right way. The Derby is his target - if that race takes place at some stage this year."

The Group 1 Singapore Derby over 1,800m is the third and final leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge.

Beuzelin sent a stern warning when he reckoned Heartening Flyer was only at 50 per cent of his peak ability.

"He's still a bit fresh and it took him a while to get into his stride," said the French jockey.

"It's a good thing he was drawn one and wasn't too far behind, as we thought 1,200m would be too short for him. It's only after the winning post that he put in the big strides.

"He'll get fitter from the run. He was only 50 per cent of his best today."

With that fourth win from only five starts, Heartening Flyer has amassed more than $145,000 for Tivic Stable.