Southern Man wins in 4-horse thriller
O'Hara's reformed barrier rogue makes it two from two
SOUTHERN MAN, the barrier rogue who was educated at length to finally run and won on debut, stepped it up again to make it two-up at Kranji last night.
But, unlike his two-length first-up victory in Restricted Terms over the Polytrack 1,200m on March 31, the John O'Hara-trained $15 favourite had to slog it out in a four-horse slugfest to prevail by the narrowest of margins.
It was the three-year-old's tenacity and will to win that got him to edge out Sing Roulette by a nose, with another nose to Royal Guard in the Class 4 Div 2 event over the Poly 1,100m.
Fourth, just a head away, was Hello Michelle.
The field got off evenly. The topweight My Horse kicked to the lead. Southern Man had to be scrubbed hard by jockey Derreck David from the outer-most stall to hound the leader.
Sing Roulette and Royal Guard were well up next, followed by Maximus and Hello Michelle, who soon raced up to pace Sing Roulette.
My Horse straightened first on the inside. Southern Man went a bit wide but soon caught up. Sing Roulette and Hello Michelle went wider but were coming home nicely. Royal Guard and Maximus were next.
At the 300m mark, Sing Rolette caught up with My Horse, with Southern Man splitting them with a neck deficit.
Hello Michelle and the Royal Guard joined in the fray in the run to the winning post. Riding like a man possessed, David managed to punch Southern Man to victory in a pulsating four-way finish.
Although desperately close, O'Hara felt his horse was first past the post.
"I thought he won but didn't think it was that close. His head was going up and the other head was going down. Lucky," said O'Hara.
"At one stage, it looked like he was going to run nowhere but he fought back. This horse has a very big heart. He's slowly maturing and slowly putting it together."
It sure took a long while to educate Southern Man's "very, very bad" barrier manners and O'Hara gave thanks to the two starters, Damien Kinninmont and John Pepe, and the barrier staff for helping to get his horse to settle for the races.
"They were very patient with him and put in so much effort. Honestly, I couldn't have got him right by myself," said O'Hara.
"He always rears up in the barrier, but so far so good - two starts, two wins. He's starting to get better and more settled with each race, but I'll take it one race at a time.
"I think he prefers a bit of distance. I'll gradually step him up, heading towards a mile."
In the opening event, two races earlier, O'Hara's other problematic horse, D'DON, resumed from a half-year spell to lead all the way over the flying 1,000m in Class 5 with jockey Saifudin Ismail astride.
It was D'Don's fifth success in 45 starts. He had support, starting as the $25 second-favourite, just $2 more than the beaten favourite Satellite Star, who struggled in the rear before rattling home eighth.
O'Hara rested D'Don after the horse suffered a hairline fracture on his hip after his last race and the comeback win gave O'Hara plenty of satisfaction.
"It's good to see him come back and win. Besides his fractured hip, he also has had four wind surgeries and he's a bleeder, so I'm just glad he came back good," said O'Hara,
"I have a soft spot for this horse. To see him win again is very satisfying."