Infantry guns down Countofmontecristo
Trainer Alwin Tan's Derby winner will tackle the Singapore Triple Crown if all goes well
Infantry marched closer towards the Horse of the Year title with a gutsy victory over the consistent triple-Group winner Countofmontecristo in the $700,000 Group 1 Panasonic Kranji Mile yesterday.
It was a training feat by trainer Alwin Tan to bring his last-start Emirates Singapore Derby winner back from the July Group 1 win over 2,000m to score first-up over 1,600m.
Infantry certainly has the true traits of a champion galloper, having also shown his versatility by capturing Group 2 Merlion Trophy over 1,200m on the Polytrack in March and the Group 3 JBBA Moonbeam Vase over 1,800m in April.
The five-year-old New Zealand-bred has now amassed about $1.8 million in prize money for Thai outfit Kajorn Petch Racing No. 2 Stable from nine wins, six seconds and two thirds from 21 starts, which included an unplaced run in an international race in South Korea last year.
Last year's Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner Laughing Gravy led after the jump yesterday but, as expected, Group 1 Singapore Guineas-cum-Group 2 Chairman's Trophy victor Forever Young soon took over command.
At the halfway mark, Forever Young was about a length ahead of Laughing Gravy.
Countofmontecristo, a winner of a Group 2 and two Group 3s, and beaten only once from eight previous starts, rolled up beautifully into third, another length away.
Jockey Manoel Nunes parked Infantry right behind him.
Laughing Gravy closed in on Forever Young on straightening. Jockey Glen Boss swung up on their outside on Countofmontecristo. Nunes moved up in tandem wider.
"The Count" and Infantry shot past the tiring leading pair at the 250m mark and drew away to fight out the finish.
Giving more in the desperate drive to the winning post, Infantry beat Countofmontecristo, whose other defeat was also over the 1,600m trip, when third to Forever Young in the Guineas.
Reigning Horse of the Year Debt Collector, who is also last year's winner, came from third-last to poke his nose in front of Majestic Moments for third. He was the $19 favourite.
Infantry was the fourth fancy, paying $33 for a win.
Interviewed by race presenter Nicholas Child, resplendent in a red Singapore Turf Club clerk-of-the-course jacket and with a microphone in hand on a grey horse on the way back, like they do in the famed Melbourne Cup, Nunes was full of praise for Infantry.
"Very happy because this is a very good horse. He tries every distance, you know. He won from 1,200m to 2,000m," said the smiling Brazilian.
"As you have said, I know the horse so well. Alwin Tan and the boys have done a great job.
"You know, the horse travelled to Korea and came back, and to do what he did, there is no word to describe him.
"Today is a very big test for the horse, because he is coming back from the Derby. He didn't run since then and to come back today and face this field, was a tremendous effort.
"I followed Countofmontecristo the whole way because, you know, he's a very tough horse, but my horse was too good for him."
Boss reckoned Countofmontecristo was gallant in defeat.
"You can't take anything away from him. He was beaten by a better horse today," said the top Australian jockey.
Trainer Tan deserves accolades for tuning Infantry to race fitness after the beneficial break and for adding the blinkers to sharpen his charge up.
But, as usual, he gave bouquets to others first at the post-race interview.
"I think the credit still goes to my team, the jockey and, of course, the owner who is supporting me, and I think today is our lucky day."
Turning to Infantry, he said: "I think he has a big heart and you can see we put back the blinkers on the horse because of the 1,600m.
"We wanted to sharpen him up a bit without forcing him to go up too fast to the front.
"And yes, I think we will definitely look at the Triple Crown."
The Kranji Mile was the first leg of the Singapore Triple Crown Series, followed by the $700,000 Group 1 Raffles Cup over 1,800m on Oct 22 and the $1.35 million Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup over 2,200m on Nov 12.