Speedy Dragon blazes the trail in New Year Cup
David Kok-trained 6YO springs $180 surprise in first feature of 2018 Singapore racing season "He worked very well and I expected him to run a good race but, wow, never expected him to win by more than two lengths." -Trainer David Kok (above) on Speedy Dragon
He looked a bit edgy and sweaty at the parade ring.
These negative tell-tale signs obviously made many to put the pen through his name, as evidenced by his $180 win odds.
But, like what his winning rider A'Isisuhairi "Harry" Kasim alluded to, anything can happen in racing.
His mount, the sparingly raced David Kok-trained Speedy Dragon, sprang a big surprise yesterday to land the first feature of the 2018 Singapore racing season on the first race meeting of the year - the $200,000 Group 3 New Year Cup over the Polytrack 1,200m.
And, in race-caller Matthew Jones' words, what was even more surprising was the arrogance of Speedy Dragon's win.
The chestnut American-bred, who turned six yesterday, annihilated the strong field by two-and-a-quarter lengths despite being the third-least backed contender and looked like he would win again if they had gone a second round.
He worked very well and I expected him to run a good race but, wow, never expected him to win by more than two lengths.Trainer David Kok on Speedy Dragon
The GTR Racing Stable-owned gelding clocked 1min 11.20sec and it was his seventh success in 18 starts, taking his prize money to the $400,000 mark.
He was second four times and third once. Of his victories, six of them were on the alternate surface, establishing him as a good Polytrack horse.
Before yesterday, Speedy Dragon had only one other feature-race attempt. He ran seventh in the Group 3 Rocket Man Sprint last March.
When a big outsider saluted with such consummate ease, naturally the rider would get the accolades.
Yes, A'Isisuhairi rode brilliantly. His daring take-off on Speedy Dragon paid dividends,
After settling his horse nicely in midfield after the jump, A'Isisuhairi made a quick move, albeit wide, from the 800m mark, taking his mount to join Wimbledon, the highest-rated contender, and Nova Swiss on the fence at the 600m mark.
Slightly over a length behind them were Sebas, Mr Fantastic and the $14 favourite Skywalk.
The leading trio were almost abreast on straightening.
Nova Swiss drew first blood and kicked slightly ahead.
A'Isisuhairi drove Speedy Dragon after Nova Swiss and sailed past the horse easily.
From thereon, the race was all over as the winner went at full throttle to the winning post.
EW Barker Trophy runner-up Fortune Winner came from last to grab second, with last-start Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes winner Nova Strike also coming from way back for third, three-quarter lengths away.
The New Year Cup was previously run over the Poly 1,900m.
For A'Isisuhairi, it was his second major upset victory in just over two months, having steered Gilt Complex to spring a $222 surprise in the $700,000 Group 1 Raffles Cup over 1,800m on Oct 22.
The Kelantan-born rider boiled it down to pure luck for striking gold in the big races.
"You know, sometimes you don't expect your horse to do well but this is what racing is all about," he said.
"Sometimes whatever you hop on, if it's going to be your day, it's going to be your day.Look, his last run he didn't go any good, you know. He didn't handle the turf track and this horse is not an easy horse to ride.
"I mean, I've never ridden him before, I just looked at all the replays and a couple of riders told me to watch him in the gates. He could do things wrong.
"Even in the run, when the pace steadied, he got a little bit keen. He wanted to lay in, he wanted to hang out.
"I just went with him, you know. On the Polytrack, you don't really care about where you're travelling and this bloke was travelling strongly.
"At the home turn, once he changed to the right leg, he kicked home very strongly."
Kok was not overly concerned when Speedy Dragon got a bit keen and sweaty at the paddock. He knew his charge would perform well.
"That's just him, he's just like that. Thanks to the team for the hard work for the good start to the new year," said the smiling trainer, who also complimented A'Isisuhairi for the good ride.
"Yeah, a very good and patient ride from Harry and the horse is a true Polytrack horse, you know.
"He worked very well and I expected him to run a good race but, wow, never expected him to win by more than two lengths."