Starlight outshines Tiger Roar
Winner gives Clements his third Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic, Shafrizal his first Group success
It was the expected finish for champion trainer Michael Clements, but not the one most expected to capture the $150,000 Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic over 1,400m at Kranji yesterday.
It was his third-fancied of four contenders, $51 chance Starlight, who gallantly fended off his much-vaunted stablemate, the $9 favourite Tiger Roar, in a thrilling finish. The winning margin was just a head.
Starlight, owned by PSM Racing Stable and deftly handled by Malaysian jockey Shafrizal Saleh, won in 1min 22.56sec.
Third was the Tim Fitzsimmons-trained Relentless, 21/4 lengths behind Tiger Roar and a neck in front of the Clements-trained $20 second favourite Prosperous Return. Clements' two-from-two winner Starharmony finished last of nine runners. He was the $142 outsider.
The Jason Ong-trained Bruce Alnaughty was scratched.
Tiger Roar took the $110,000 Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint over 1,200m the previous start on June 27 and the extra 200m was ideal for his come-from-behind style.
He looked unbeatable on paper. But, as they say, anything can happen in the fascinating world of horse racing.
But most would agree that a few more strides the Falcon Racing No. 7 Stable-owned galloper would have bagged the feature double to be Kranji's undisputed king of three-year-olds.
Starlight, fresh-up from a three-month break, was fifth in the Sprint - beaten by 41/4 lengths. He had obviously thrived tremendously to give Clements his third success, after Countofmontecristo in 2017 and Top Knight in 2019.
For Shafrizal, it was his first Group success in seven years of riding, three in Malaysia.
The race got off to an even start. There was some scrimmaging for the lead.
Jockey Matthew Kellady managed to steer the Shane Bartschiger-trained Be You to a clear lead on settling down, after breaking from Gate 1.
He led by just over a length from the Steven Burridge-trained last-start winner Seson (Oscar Chavez) and Starharmony (Louis-Phillipe Beuzelin).
Starlight was next on the shortest route home. Then came Prosperous Return (Vlad Duric) and Relentless (Danny Beasley). Tiger Roar (apprentice jockey Simon Kok) was in his customary last place, about 10 lengths adrift.
Seson, Starlight and Prosperous Return, who had loomed up menacingly on the outside, challenged Be You on straightening.
Prosperous Return and Starlight headed out the leader in the final 300m. While Starlight kicked strongly to a clear buffer, Prosperous Return was done.
Relentless moved up but it was the fast-finishing Tiger Roar who was the clear danger. But, alas, the winning post came first for his deserving stablemate.
Shafrizal was so delighted that he looked up to the heavens on his way back, kissed his whip and blew a kiss.
"I'm very happy but I also feel like crying. This is my first Group win, after having worked so hard. This is also for my newborn baby, Shaqeel. He was born three weeks ago," said the 33-year-old Penangite, who has another son, Shazael, who is almost two years old.
He said the plan was to be handy, get cover and make a go for it at the top of the straight, as the fast track was disadvantageous to the horses from behind.
"Today was a fast track, so we had to kick early. The horses from behind were a bit slow to make up ground. I was a bit worried when I saw another blue coming," he added.
Shafrizal was also aboard when fifth in the Three-Year-Old Sprint. He reckoned the horse had improved tremendously after that.
"That day, he came back from a break and had only one barrier trial and had the blinkers. He needed the run. After his last gallop, I told my trainer this horse was much improved - better than his last start," he said.
"At his last start, he got checked at the 800m. He also drew a wide barrier and I could not go in. I was trapped wide all the way. It was still a good run that day."
"I'm very happy but I also feel like crying. This is my first Group win, after having worked so hard.
This is also for my newborn baby, Shaqeel. He was born three weeks ago."
- Jockey Shafrizal Saleh (above), who rode the Michael Clements-trained Starlight to victory in yesterday's $150,000 Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic over 1,400m. He has another son, Shazael, who is almost two years old.