Mr Clint strikes gold, finally
Trainer Freedman credits jockey Williams, who can walk on water this week, for Singapore Gold Cup win
Mr Clint, unlucky in defeat in a couple of recent Group 1 feature races, scored a deserving victory in the $1 million Dester Singapore Gold Cup yesterday - thanks to a rider who could "walk on water this week".
The decision to engage top Australian jockey Craig Williams to ride Mr Clint in the time-honoured blue riband of the local turf certainly paid off handsomely for Singapore champion trainer Lee Freedman and Oscar Racing Stable.
A masterful ride from the jockey for the big occasions saw the more positively ridden Mr Clint winning the 2,000m Kranji classic by 3/4 lengths from $176 outsider Gold Strike.
Third, half a length away in the capacity field of 16, was the topweight Countofmontecristo.
"What a week for Craig Williams - two continents, two Cups," blared an excited racecaller Luke Marlow.
Only last Tuesday, Williams was the toast of Australia, riding Wow And Declare to capture the race that stops a nation - the Melbourne Cup.
Mr Clint was the second Singapore Gold Cup winner for the eight-time Melbourne champion. He won with the Stephen Gray-trained Bahana in 2016.
Bahana finished a creditable seventh - his fourth Gold Cup attempt - with Perth jockey Patrick Moloney astride.
The $14 favourite I'm Incredible finished ninth, after tracking the leader.
There was some anxious moments when the Shane Baertschiger-trained Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner was taken out of the barrier and trotted before the vet. Champion jockey Vlad Duric remounted and the horse was reloaded.
Mr Clint, who won the Group 1 Singapore Guineas in May last year, saw his form taper off after running third in the Gold Cup in November.
But the five-year-old showed a return to form with a couple of unlucky Group 1 bids recently.
He was beaten by a neck in the Singapore Derby over 1,800m on July 21. He followed up with a nose second in the Raffles Cup over 1,600m on Sept 22. Both runs, he came from way back to storm home too late.
Last start in the Queen Elizabeth II, he finished a dismal 12th. He returned lame off-fore.
He had Brazilian jockey Bernardo Pinheiro aboard in all his three Group 1 bids.
Freedman, a multiple Group 1-winning trainer, including the Melbourne Cup five times, reckoned Mr Clint had turned his form around in the lead-ups.
"Then, of course, he had that setback before the last race, and I thought the ride was appalling," said the Australian Hall of Famer."That's why I changed jockeys. Thank god I did, because this guy can walk on water this week.
"But this horse, since his Guineas, had no luck, you know. He's had a few leg troubles, he's had a few issues. He was unlucky not to win last year's Cup. Today, just given the most incredibly good ride and it showed what a good horse he can be."
Williams parked Mr Clint further than midfield early but started his move from the 800m mark. His horse progressed like a good horse and had overtaken the leader, last year's winner Elite Invincible, shortly after straightening.
From there, the $31 chance kept up a bright gallop for a deserving victory.
Williams paid tribute to Freedman and the team for preparing Mr Clint to be" a great competitor", but he saved the best words for his good mate, Duric.
"I would like to thank Vlad Duric. Before I ever took the ride in Singapore, I asked him. He told me 'if I was not on my horse, I would be on yours', and he got me the ride on," said Williams.
"So I'm indebted to one of my best mates. We were both apprenticed to my father the same time. Now he's the champion jockey here and he'll do it again."