Inferno in a class of his own
Brown's latest sensation clocks 1min 08.28sec for 1,200m to become fastest Lion City Cup winner
Nothing beats class, a point endorsed by Kranji's latest sensation Inferno when he razed his 15 rivals to the ground in the $400,000 Group 1 Lion City Cup yesterday.
It was sheer class that saw the four-year-old overcome obstacles to not only win, but also stamp his authority.
His winning time, 1min 08.28sec, made him the fastest Lion City Cup winner since the sprint classic was inaugurated in 1974 at the old Bukit Timah racecourse.
Mind you, it could have been faster had his jockey, three-time champion Vlad Duric, not stopped riding 50m out.
The course record is 1min 07.84sec, achieved by Hong Kong raider Sacred Kingdom in 2009 when he won the KrisFlyer International Sprint.
Most knew Inferno was the horse to beat on his impeccable record of seven wins from eight starts. But the confidence level dropped slightly when he drew the widest gate.
The strapping Australian-bred was also facing another disadvantage. He was coming back to 1,200m after his last-start Group 1 Singapore Guineas victory over 1,600m on Sept 26.
Horses generally lose their speed coming back in trip within a close back-up.
Even his trainer, Cliff Brown, had said pre-race it would make it very tough for his charge with the drop in distance against high-class seasoned sprinters.
The Australian was also shocked when drawn the BKE.
"The last straw was when he drew 16 from 16. There are not many happy stories to that race for him, that's for sure," he said.
But the Barree Stable-owned Inferno proved the horrendous draw and the shorter trip were no obstacles.
With the traits of a champion, nothing could stand in his way. He was in one class, the others were in another.
The moment Duric cut the $9 favourite loose at the 300m mark, after travelling around midfield, he powered to the front in just a few bounces. The race already ended there, as if the others were standing still.
"He's quite something else, isn't he?" said Brown.
"To come back from the mile to 1,200m, it's very hard to do, but he did a great job. This horse is just getting better and better."
Inferno has won about $900,000 from eight wins and a second from as many starts.
Duric, who rode four winners to take his tally to 59 winners, said he has "not ridden a horse like Inferno in Singapore".
"In the race, I just let him show what he's made of and, when I let him loose, he did it very, very easily," he added.
As expected, Kranji's other rising star, Mr Malek, ran second. But the Lee Freedman-trained six-time winner from eight starts was truly well beaten.
The $23 second favourite finished 21/4 lengths behind.
Group 3 New Year Cup winner Nowyousee, a $215 outsider, was a gallant third. Brown's other contender, 2018 runner-up Zac Kasa, was fourth.
Yesterday's victory made Duric the first jockey to win the Lion City Cup thrice at Kranji. He also won with Aramco last year and Zac Spirit in 2016.
Two other jockeys also won the race three times. British legend Lester Piggott won it three years in a row at Bukit Timah - on Blue Star in 1976 and 1977 and on Gentle Jim in 1978.
Former local champion Saimee Jumaat triumphed on Fischer in 1997 and 1999 at Bukit Timah and on Ninetyfive Emperor in 2005 at Kranji.
It was Brown's third success, having won the race with Zac Spirit in 2014 and 2016.