Racing

Mandrake is destined for better things

James Peters-trained Argentinian-bred unleashes quick turn of foot to score with authority

Remember the name Mandrake. He is a horse destined for better things at Kranji.

Trained by James Peters, the five-year-old Argentinian-bred showed he has some class about him on Saturday, when he broke through in great fashion at just his fourth start in Singapore.

It was a superb victory. He won it with his quick turn of foot in a smart 1min 34.56sec for the 1,600m trip against a strong Class 4 lot.

It looks like more wins are in store. He could be heading for rich pickings next year.

The writing was already on the wall leading to Saturday's assignment. The brown gelding had shown improving form at his initial three starts.

The one-time winner over 1,600m in Argentina came from the rear to finish fifth behind Limited Edition at his Kranji debut over 1,200m on Aug 8. He lost by just a length.

Second-up, four weeks later, he came from last to finish a 21/4-length fourth to King's Command over 1,400m.

At his last start on Sept 26, the money was on ($33), compared three-figure odds for his first two starts.

Again over 1,400m, he raced on the pace and finished third to the promising Heartening Flyer, after being checked.

French jockey Marc Lerner made no mistake in their partnership on Saturday.

Scraping paint worse than midfield after jumping from Gate 9, Mandrake looked to have a big task ahead when he came off the fence for his challenge at the top of the straight.

Race-leader Ironchamp (Simon Kok) showed no signs of letting up.

But Lerner's strong urging got Mandrake past the Steven Burridge-trained last-start winner for a gutsy neck win. He paid a juicy $43 for a win.

"From the barrier, we thought we might go forward. But he was a bit slow at the gates and Marc gave him a 10-out-of-10 ride," said Peters.

"When he came off the fence, I really liked the way he did his best work inside the last 100m. He will get over more ground, 1,600m to 1,800m, and even further in time."

The English trainer was happy the horse emerged as the first winner from a pioneer group of Argentinian-breds raced by a new syndication group.

But he was not so thrilled 10 months ago, when his horse shipment was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The plane they had boarded was grounded in Buenos Aires, after it was searched and a stash of 80kg of cocaine was seized.

Unfortunately, the drug bust made headlines around the world, with Peters' five horses the unwitting fellow passengers to the unsavoury cargo.

That unfortunate and rather bizarre episode is now done and dusted, especially after the five stranded horses finally landed one month later than scheduled.

With four of them unraced youngsters, Mandrake, who had 10 starts in Argentina, was the most likely to give the new group, headed by South African racing manager Justin Vermaak, a first toast to forget the Buenos Aires debacle.

"I'm very happy for the group, especially for Justin Vermaak, and all of the boys who've got shares in this new syndication," said Peters.

"This horse has improved since he's landed here. He was a bit nervous, quite keen.The boys at the stable have done a great job to switch him off. He's learned to be more relaxed."

HORSE RACING