Minister earns Derby ticket with hat-trick
Trainer Lee Freedman's Ocean Crossing also gets a Derby berth
Progressive US-bred galloper Minister again showed his boundless will to win by claiming the $85,000 Waikato 2009 Stakes Class 2 race over 1,600m on Sunday.
And the gutsy showing has trainer Lee Freedman relishing the thought of his charge contesting the Singapore Derby on Sept 6. And why not? Sure as ever, he looks up to the task.
Time and again, the Street Sense four-year-old has looked on the ropes when his lead was threatened. But, to his credit, he has always held sway.
"Minister is a pretty smart horse. He's improving with each run," said Freedman, after the Thai-owned King Power Stable's middle-distance performer racked up his third win in a row from four Kranji starts for more than $120,000 in prize money.
"Not only did he win, he also ran a class record (1min 34sec - 0.03sec better than Yulong Edition), and this augurs well for the Derby."
Freedman was also extremely happy with the performance of the runner-up, Ocean Crossing, who has also earned his Derby ticket.
"Ocean Crossing will also run in the Derby. It was a solid effort as he was jumping from Class 3," he said.
"I was looking for a Class 3 race, but then I thought why not test him at Class 2 level and he's run very well, and got a Derby ticket, too."
Backed down to $13 favouritism on Kranji Mile Day, Minister, with A'Isisuhairi Kasim in the saddle, didn't dictate terms this time.
They began well from their low draw, but A'Isisuhairi was quite content to opt for a cosy journey in the box-seat when Time Lord (Koh Teck Huat) whipped around to take up the running.
Having not spent a penny tucked away in his cosy spot, Minister was quick to take over the baton upon straightening.
If there was to be any challenge this time, it came as friendly fire from stablemate Ocean Crossing (top apprentice jockey Simon Kok).
Just like Minister, Ocean Crossing was rising in grade and had nothing on his back.
Ocean Crossing, who was ridden positive from his wide alley to take up a handy berth on Time Lord's outside, gave his all in the home straight. But Minister just doesn't get passed once he hits the front.
One length split the duo at the finish, but the same reward rejoins them - a berth in the Group 1 Singapore Derby over 1,800m on Sept 6.
The emerging Freedman-A'Isisuhairi combination gained further traction when they grabbed a race-to-race double with Mr Alejandro ($15) in the $50,000 Top Spin 2008 Stakes Class 4 Division 1 race over 1,400m.
From Freedman's eight winners since racing resumed on July 11, Mr Alejandro was the fifth earned in combination with the former two-time Singapore champion apprentice jockey.
There are no prizes for guessing who is riding Minister in the Singapore Derby.