Quarter Back joins in the 3YO contest
Trainer Michael Clements' charge makes it two from two with sterling victory
The longer last two legs of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge have been further spiced up on Sunday when Quarter Back joined the growing list of contenders after his sterling win in the $45,000 Mr Big 2012 Stakes, a Class 4 Non Premier race over 1,200m.
Just on Friday, the first leg itself, the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint over 1,200m - had given a good indication of who would move on, with the first three finishers - Be Bee, Mr Clint and Captain Jamie - as well as the fast-finishing sixth-placed horse, Lord Of Cloud, obvious elects.
Another qualifier was hatched in the very next race over 1,600m when the Ricardo Le Grange-trained King Louis trounced his rivals.
On Sunday,victors Lim's Zoom for Mark Walker and Tesoro Privado, another Le Grange, also put their hands up.
Blessed at one stage with as many as five candidates to pick from, Clements unfortunately saw that pool whittled down through the law of attrition.
The biggest blow was the below-par run of promising filly Loving You last week in a Novice race over 1,200m, in which his Imperium brought some consolation with a third place that certainly put him in good stead for the rest of the series.
In the Sprint, Clements' hopes were rather high for Yabadabadoo and Safeer, but neither ran up to expectations.
But, luckily, debut winner Quarter Back has come to boost the morale in the camp with a devastating performance not even Clements thought was possible, mainly because of the query over the turf.
The Japanese-bred by US stallion Empire Maker won on debut in a Restricted Maiden race over 1,000m on Polytrack on Feb 23.
Sunday's test over turf was necessary as a good guide should they press forward with his 3YO campaign. But Clements could not be 100 per cent confident even if his homework on the sire side made for reassuring news.
"We weren't sure how he would handle the turf. He had to show something sufficiently good to move on to the 3YO races," said Clements.
"He is a Japanese-bred by a US sire, who did handle both turf and dirt, though. But, regardless of that, I was happy with the way he had shown a lot of improvement since his last run.
"His final gallop was absolutely great and he is a very straightforward horse to train.
"He is reasonably lightly framed, absolutely no problem there.
"We had pencilled him in for the second leg over 1,400m and, with that great effort today, he will definitely go that way now."
The $500,000 Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic over 1,400m will be run on April 22, while the final leg, the $1 million Group 1 Singapore Guineas over 1,600m will be held five weeks later on May 26.
Ridden by Glen Boss, Quarter Back ($27) enjoyed a ground-saving run on the rails, within striking distance from stablemate and leader Iffragal, who was battling for supremacy with Shoot Up High up front.
Quarter Back was popped off the fence just before the point of the turn and, in one fell swoop, hit the front and scooted to a commanding break at the 300mark to post a two-and-three-quarter-lengths win over Mystic Pride .