Hong Kong trainer John Moore cited the luck of the draw after he lifted his second consecutive Singapore Airlines International Cup trophy with Dan Excel while last year’s winner and overwhelming favourite Military Attack had to settle for third on Sunday night.
Despite his chequered form since his dominant Singapore win last year, most experts had made Military Attack the Australian trainer’s front-runner in this year’s renewal of the $3 million International Group 1 race over 2000m, ahead of his runner-up that night, Dan Excel, but it was the latter, the perennial bridesmaid who turned the tables on him to earn the thicker end of the prizemoney in an emotionally-charged victory.
Moore, a regular visitor at the SIA Cup meeting over the years, was over the moon he had become the second trainer after Herman Brown (Jay Peg in 2008 and Gitano Hernando in 2011) to bag two SIA Cups, incidentally fuelling further the rapid rise of Hong Kong on the world racing scene. One race earlier in the KrisFlyer International Sprint (1200m), Lucky Nine had scored back-to-back wins in the sprint sister race for his Sha Tin colleague Caspar Fownes, making it the second year in a row that the former British colony hogs both events.
Jockey Tommy Berry salutes the Kranji crowd as he captures the SIA Cup aboard Dan Excel.
But the 64-year-old Moore was putting the reverse of the result most had expected of his two runners down to their contrasting barrier draws.
“Dan Excel was always the underdog, the bridesmaid, but he drew the right gate. He had barrier No 1 and he just enjoyed a ground-saving run on the rails throughout,” said Moore.
“Military Attack had to be used very early to get across from his wide draw and he was not the same at the finish.
“Had he drawn a gate from 1 to 3, I think he would have finished a lot closer. It was still a great run considering he was drawn wide and they broke the record.”
Ridden by Tommy Berry, Dan Excel hugged the rails in third throughout the race, while Japanese flyer Tokei Halo (Hirofumi Shii) bolted off to a commanding lead coming into the backstraight despite jumping from an outside alley (nine). Coming from even further out in No 10 but not blessed with the same gate speed, Military Attack (Joao Moreira) had to work in the early stages of the race to try and get some cover in midfield, but ended up travelling one off in sixth.
Singapore challenger Wild Geese (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) did the bullocking work by leading the charge of the chasing pack, but was already shortening strides by the 800m, leaving the Moore pair of Military Attack and Dan Excel to put an indent on the leader’s margin, though Tokei Halo seemed to be holding sway with plenty of resolve at the head of affairs.
Owner David Philip Boehm, trainer John Moore and jockey Tommy Berry celebrate their SIA Cup triumph.
But once Berry released the handbrakes, it was soon evident who was putting in the bigger bounds between the two Hong Kong raiders, sweeping past Tokei Halo with relative ease. Despite Moreira’s urgings, Military Attack seemed to be flat-footed albeit he was slightly knocked off balance when Limario (Patrick Dobbs) veered sharply to the outside, while Dan Excel was instead powering away, unobstructed, with Berry even taking a look at the giant screen to make sure there was no last-minute surprise looming.
There was one and he was smoking hot! French runner Smoking Sun (Stephane Pasquier), who had all along dawdled at the rear while they rolled along up ahead, had circled out four wide before unleashing a blinding run from the 400m in a bid to give trainer Pascal Bary a second SIA Cup win after Gloria De Campeao in 2009, but he had left it too late.
Dan Excel ($29) was already out of reach as he kept surging ahead to cross the line first and in the process, shave 0.15 second off the record of Gloria De Campeao of 1min 59.22secs (1min 59.07secs), 1 ¾-length clear of a gallant Smoking Sun. Dan Excel, an Irish-bred six-year-old by Shamardal was also securing his second Group 1 success after he won the Champions Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin last year.
Military Attack, who was backed down to $9 favouritism, plugged on for third another 1 ½ lengths away, two lengths ahead of Tokei Halo.
English galloper Side Glance (Jaime Spencer) must also be credited with a good run after coming from last to finish fifth, 6 ½ lengths off the winner, but all honours to Dan Excel, Moore, Berry and the Hong Kong-based Australian owner David Boehm, who besides Dan Excel’s second last year, also came up short four years ago when Happy Zero ran third to Green Birdie in the KrisFlyer.
“I’m really happy for Tommy as we all know he went through really difficult times in the last month or so with the passing of his brother Nathan,” said Moore.
“Joao rides for the team, but Tommy also rides a lot for us. I’m also very delighted for the owner David Boehm as he really deserves an overseas Group 1 win with this horse.”
A teary-eyed Berry had his late brother Nathan, who recently passed away from a rare brain condition after riding for two weeks in Singapore in March, uppermost in his thoughts as he stepped up for the post-race interviews, a place he last visited last November when he brilliantly won the Group 1 Longines Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) aboard Tropaios.
“This win here in Singapore is very important as this is where Nathan last rode and he really enjoyed himself here,” said the young Australian jockey who is really stamping himself as a jockey of great occasions wherever he goes (besides Tropaios, he also boasts multiple Group 1 wins with Designs Of Rome in Hong Kong where he is currently licensed).
“There was a big butterfly that I saw in the mounting yard and he followed me on the way to the gates. Nathan was with me tonight.
“This horse is not so young anymore, but he always toughs it out and after his last run when he was caught four wide and still ran second to Variety Club in the Champions Mile, I told John he should go to Singapore, and he told me he was and I was riding him.
“I’m so thankful to John and the whole team for the opportunity. The race panned out beautifully from the inside draw for him and he really raced like a good horse.
“I just let him cruise to the lead at the top of the straight. It’s a win I won’t forget.
“Thank you to the Singapore Turf Club for giving me the opportunity to ride here and also for being so great to Nathan while he was here.”
Among the beaten brigade, the mood was morose, though Bary was drawing some positives from Smoking Sun’s late flourish, and had vowed to come back to Singapore.
“I’m happy and disappointed at the same time. It was a very good run, but it’s always a let-down when you finish second,” said the leading French trainer.
“He ran three wide and he ran on well. There are no excuses, but at least, we beat the favourite. We will be back.”
The Japanese camp seemed pleased with Tokei Halo’s fourth place, though one could sense a feeling of “what if” in their post-race reaction.
Said Shigehisa Tanabe, racing manager for the owner Nobuhiko Kimura: “He ran well. That is his style.
“But he was fighting on the bit. If he had settled better, I think he could have run better.”
With that sixth win from 36 starts, Dan Excel has seen his bank swollen from a total of S$3.5 million to around S$5.1 million for Boehm.
Source : Singapore Turf Club