Racing

Khao Manee springs $508 jolt

The year's longest-priced winner survives protest after being first past the post in thrilling five-way finish

There was double drama in the second of 11 races on Singapore Derby Day at Kranji yesterday.

First, the least-backed runner, Khao Manee, produced a boilover in a thrilling five-way finish in the $75,000 Restricted Maiden event over 1,600m on the Long Course B.

The Jerome Tan-trained $508 long shot got up in the nick of time to win by just a nose from the fast-finishing Great Expectation.

The $14 favourite Con Speranza was third, a short head away, with a neck to Ace Sovereign, who was only a nose in front of Hero.

Second, hardly had the excitement subsided came the announcement that Vlad Duric, the rider of the runner-up, had objected against Khao Manee for alleged interference shortly after the "off".

It was rare to have an objection lodged for interference in that early part of the race.

While it would cause some anxiety with a lengthy objection in progress, about 15 minutes, Tan was as cool as a cucumber.

As typical as an objection lodged at such an early stage, Duric was entitled to believe he had grounds for a hearing, especially when taking into account the narrow margin.

But Tan still walked into the stewards' room with supreme confidence that the result would stand.

"I was not worried at all. They had 1,599 metres to catch us, and besides, it's Marc's (Lerner) horse (Con Speranza) who shifted out onto us," he said.

From the head-on replay, Con Speranza, who drew 11, jumped outwards. It triggered a concertina effect where Khao Manee (12), rolled out onto Great Expectation (13), who was cramped for room as he got squashed between Khao Manee and Alexander (14).

Great Expectation definitely came off the worst from the scrimmage, but the stewards were on the same page as Tan - the interference was insufficient to materially affect the result of the race.

The "All Clear" was given. Khao Manee, named after a rare cat breed from Thailand, got to keep the chocolates. The winning time was 1min 36.52sec.

While Khao Manee scored at the longest odds for the year, Tan was not surprised, having even put his money where his mouth was.

"This horse can stay all day. He's looking for 2,000m but there aren't many 2,000m races here, so we ran him over the mile instead and it's worked out well," said the Singaporean handler.

"We thought the wide draw ruined our chances, but Jimmy (Wong) timed his run very well. The odds were too good not to have a little something on as well."

Regardless of the outlay Tan had, the three-year-old by Remind earned about $40,000 - a nice windfall to his bargain price of NZ$5,000 (S$4,700).

Khao Manee is part of a bunch of horses Tan bought on the cheap at the New Zealand Yearling Sale two years ago.

Amazing Breeze (NZ$6,000) was the first to bring a return on the astute trainer's investment in June, incidentally for the same Applause Racing Stable.

The other two three-year-olds are Classic Thirtysix (also by Remind) and Master Player, who made his Kranji debut on July 10 without really flattering (sixth to Renzo), but the son of Tiger Prawn is the one Tan thinks may well hit the jackpot one day.

"I got them at the New Zealand yearling sale. I didn't go with the breeding, I just went with the conformation, and they all looked nice," he said.

"Of the four, it's Master Player, who has always been the most forward. I'm sure he'll improve from his first run."

HORSE RACING