No dilly-dally for Derby dudes
Big Hearted and Mr Malek light up the Kranji training track
So, it is finally upon us. One of the "big" ones. The Singapore Derby on Sunday.
An enticement of $400,000 awaits - if your horse proves to be the best over the 1,800m trip.
As of now, there's a field of nine, all raring to go for the coveted one. And, as always, there's the build-up.
Like the practice sessions and the "qualifying" before a Formula One race - which prove highly entertaining - the Derby has its pre-event rituals.
It's the workouts ahead of the main event and, yesterday on the training track, the two likely favourites strutted their stuff - in contrasting fashion.
According to those at trackside, Big Hearted - who will carry the No. 2 saddlecloth - was a sight to behold. He didn't put a hoof wrong when running 600m in 37.9sec.
Champion trainer Michael Clements would have been mighty pleased with his stout-hearted galloper.
A never-say-die campaigner who has been outside the top- three placings in just four of his 16 races at Kranji, Big Hearted has been fine-tuned for this race.
Of course, so too has Mr Malek. The pride of trainer Steven Burridge's stable, Mr Malek was equally impressive when sent out for a spot of cantering. He had jockey A'Isisuhairi Kasim aboard.
But let's get back to Big Hearted.
He has been fined-tuned for this race. Whatever rough edges have been smoothened out by Clements. All that remains is for the season's leading trainer to apply the polish which will bring out the shine.
There's also that thing called revenge. It spurs on all great athletes and horses alike.
Big Hearted has a score to settle. He was mugged by Mr Malek in the Group 2 Stewards' Cup earlier this month and had to settle for second spot.
The margin was 11/2 lengths. But it wasn't a bruising. Big Hearted - who has won over the Derby trip - is right now in the right place. If he turns it on, the Singapore Gold Cup winner will be an awesome competitor.
Of course, Mr Malek and the Burridge camp will have something to say about it and they will be right.
Mr Malek's Derby credentials are outstanding. After lifting the Stewards' Cup, Burridge rested him for something like a fortnight, before sending him to the trials. With his Stewards' Cup partner A'Isisuhairi on the reins, he romped home a one-length winner.
That was just last week. We reckon yesterday's bit of cantering was more of a stretching exercise and that he could be "cotton-woolled" until Sunday.
Among the roughies in the line-up, Hard Too Think looks a lively longshot.
He also worked well, clocking 38.2sec for 600m. Frenchman Marc Lerner was in the saddle.
Hard Too Think tossed his hat into the ring with a win over 2,000m in May. He followed it up with a second over 1,800m in the middle of last month.
It is a case of him - and a few others with rating points in the 60s - taking on the big boys.
Don't let that turn you off. If Hard Too Think isn't shown the respect he deserves and is allowed to roll along in front, he could give the rest something to chase at the business-end of things.