Onwards and upwards now for Distinctive Darci
Trainer Walker's Polytrack specialist bounces back for seventh victory
First, there was a bit of doubt whether he could take his place after breaking through his gate, a somewhat unusual thing for the horse.
But, after the veterinary surgeon passed him fit to race, Polytrack specialist Distinctive Darci bounced back to the winning list stylishly for his seventh victory - all on the alternate track - from 19 starts.
After Friday night's success - the four-year-old's fourth over 1,100m - trainer Mark Walker proclaimed that it would now be "onwards and upwards" for his prolific sprinter, who has amassed about $515,000 for his owner, Terry Lee of Fairdeal Stable.
Looking at the feature-race schedule, the $500,000 Group 2 Merlion Trophy over the Poly 1,200m on April 27 is surely the top on Distinctive Darci's agenda.
The decision to put the blinkers-pacifiers and a positive ride by Walker's high-riding apprentice, R Zawari, were key factors to the bay New Zealand-bred gelding's comeback victory.
The money was on, with Distinctive Darci ending up as the second favourite at $23, behind Nowyousee at $15, but the eventual winner's supporters nearly got their bets refunded.
Distinctive Darci burst through his gate and Zawari jumped down from the front.
Racecaller Nicholas Child said it was quite extraordinary to see such a situation.
"Really, you don't get to see this often, especially the rider coming out from the front because the gates are quite high," said the Englishman.
"The back they can, because they are a bit lower. Very interesting situation to be in but, thankfully, all's okay. Hats off to the vet."
The vet on duty, Dr Peter Briggs, cleared Distinctive Darci to run, which proved to be the right decision.
Speed demon Sebas, as expected, set a brisk pace in the $125,000 Kranji Stakes A race - the night's main event. He was two lengths clear of Nova Missile at the halfway mark.
Bunched up a length behind were Distinctive Darci on the rails, Constant Justice in the centre and Nova Swiss wide. Nowyousee was further back, taking the shortest route home.
Sebas led into the straight, chased by Nova Missile, with Zawari driving Distinctive Darci up beautifully on the inside. On the outside, jockey Nooresh Juglall punched Nowyousee up with a giant run.
Zawari capitalised on a small opening between the tiring Sebas and Nova Missile.
Nowyousee made a strong bid. The three horses said goodbye to Sebas to settle the issue.
Responding well to Zawari's riding, Distinctive Darci went on to beat Nova Missile by a length. The early efforts took a toll on Nowyousee, who finished third, a neck away.
The winning time was a respectable 1min 04.93sec.
Walker was a bit surprised with Distinctive Darci's antics at the start but was glad his charge was given the all-clear by the vet to race.
"I think he anticipated the start, which was quite unusual for him. He's normally good in the gates, so just hopefully, it's a one-off thing, and just glad that the vet took his time over him and let him run," said the two-time Singapore champion.
On his decision to apply the blinkers-pacifiers, Walker said: "He's just been getting too far back, like he's getting out of his ground too far. Zawari really gave him a positive ride.
"It wasn't much of a gap there actually. He was lucky, you know, to bulldoze his way through. But it was a good solid win and, hopefully, onwards and upwards for the horse.
"We're just going to stick to the Poly and just keep him on the fresh side mostly.
"We've had a few feet issues over time and Paul Summers, the club's farrier, shod him for us the last two or three times and his feet are in really good order at the moment."
It was certainly a top run from Nowyousee, considering that he was thrown into the deep-end at just his fifth start by trainer Ricardo Le Grange.
The consistent three-year-old, whose last two runs were only in Class 3, was running in Kranji Stakes A, which is normally contested by Class 1 horses.
At least, Le Grange knows where his horse stands now and can plan from here.
Juglall, too, came back pleased, even though his mount could only garner third placing.
"He certainly ran a very good race, especially after missing the break, you know," said the Mauritian jockey.
"He took a bit of time to find his feet and he fought on quite ncely in the straight. He just had enough, you know, after the amount of ground he had to make up. I'm still happy with his run."