It's Aramco - but only by a nose
Daniel Meagher's Webster runs the race of his life to make the Shane Baertschiger-trained Lion City Cup winner honest to the line
It was just a six-horse field but the race turned out to be a "rib-tickler" with a finish as close to a dead-heat.
Trainer Shane Baertschiger's last-start Lion City Cup winner Aramco - one of his three runners in the race - only got the verdict by a nose over the gutsy Daniel Meagher-trained Webster in the Class 1 sprint over 1,200m at Kranji yesterday.
"Webster or Aramco? I can't split them. This is an absolute rib-tickler. This is as close to a dead-heat you can find," blared an excited Singapore Turf Club race commentator-cum-presenter Dan Cobby.
Indeed, it was. Fellow racecaller-presenter Nicholas Child also deemed it as a "case of heart-and-mouth moment".
While he came from last with a powerful run to deny Lim's Cruiser a hat-trick in the $800,000 Group 1 Lion City Cup on May 25, Aramco was ridden closer to the pace yesterday with 58kg in the small field.
He hit the front a bit too soon and that nearly dislodged him from the winner's rostrum by Webster, who was handicapped 8kg lighter but apprentice Simon WH Kok rode 0.5kg over.
The race started with Aramco's stablemate Blue Swede missing the start by a couple of lengths, while his other stable companion Dutrow spiralled to lead by about four lengths from Webster on settling down.
Aramco was two lengths behind with Magic Wand for company. A similar break away came 2014 Horse of the Year War Affair and Blue Swede.
Dutrow led into the straight by two lengths from Webster. Aramco pulled up on their outside, several horses wide, and popped his head in front 150m out. Responding to Kok's riding, Webster rallied back and the pair hit the line as one.
A photo-finish print was called. It showed Aramco winning by the narrowest of margins. He paid just $6 for a win.
"From where I was, I actually thought he won but you never know," said Baertschiger. "He got there a bit too soon. Just a small field, he gave 8kg away, so it was a good tough win.
"The Merlion is seven weeks away, so we've got a lot of time to get him ready. Vlad has got an unbeaten record on this horse - four from four - so let's hope for five from five in the Group 2."
The $400,000 Group 2 Merlion Trophy over the Polytrack 1,200m is on Aug 25.
Duric reckoned Aramco needed a bigger field for a "bit more happening" and "a quieter ride" to get the best from the horse. He also praised Kok's jockeyship on Webster.
"Simon rode a very smart race. He went to the fence and got into the slipstream of theleader and I lost my cover and my horse overraced a bit," said Duric. "Then, when he did pop up, I was three wide at the turn.
"It didn't worry me, I was on the best horse. But then, it forced me to hit the front a bit soon. He's a much-better chaser. Yeah, I was a bit worried on the line, because I thought I might have got beaten. But, anyway, we got away with it."