Altair guns down Top Knight
Mark Walker-trained progressive galloper now aimed at the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge Series
Champion trainer Mark Walker's exciting find Altair continued his winning ways in style at Kranji on Saturday.
What made his fourth victory from just five starts stand out was that he claimed a notable scalp - of dual Group winner Top Knight. It was also his first win on the turf at Kranji.
Walker will now press ahead for the Singapore Four-Year-Old Series, starting with the $175,000 Group 3 Silver Bowl over 1,400m on Feb 29.
This is followed by the $400,000 Group 2 Stewards' Cup over 1,600m on March 20 and the $1 million Group 1 Singapore Derby over 1,800m on April 18.
Owned by Hsi Jar-Yi, Altair again justified Walker's faith in acquiring him with the Four-Year-Old Series in mind. He has gone from strength to strength since his Kranji dream debut on Sept 8 last year.
Altair cost A$510,000 (S$473,000) as a yearling but did not live up to the high expectations in Australia, but Walker has been having a field time with his classic prospect.
Although drawn widestof 11 in the $85,000 Class 2 event over 1,200m, Altair zoomed to the lead by a couple of lengths after a swift jump and then dropped anchor.
Champion apprentice jockey Simon Kok, aboard Autumn Rush, then surged to the front at the 850m mark to be two lengths ahead of Altair. Top Knight was worse than midfield.
Jockey Benny Woodworth steered Altair past Autumn Rush at the 300m mark and broke clear. Top Knight responded to champion jockey Vlad Duric's urgings and charged home but Altair was safely home by 11/4 lengths.
"Simon didn't like the tempo of the race, so when he went forward, I took a seat and he relaxed nicely," said Woodworth.
"When we reached the straight, I was taking my time as I didn't want him to hit the front too early. When I asked him for an effort, he kicked again."
Walker reckoned it was not ideal to have Altair racing forward early but a win is a win.
"It's not the best way to ride him. I think he's better third or fourth but he's got another nice win today, and we'll start to think of the Four-Year-Old Series," said the three-time Singapore champion.
Taking nothing away from the winner, Top Knight's second was a splendid effort.
He was going over an unsuitable 1,200m trip after a near five-month break nursing a minor injury following his Group 1 Singapore Guineas success over 1,600m last May 25.
The Michael Clements-trained New Zealand-bred has never won over the sprint trip. His seven victories were over 1,400m (four times) and 1,600m (three times).
Like Altair, the Falcon Racing No. 7 Stable-owned galloper will proceed to the Singapore Four-Year-Old Series.