Aramco gives Shane first Group 1 win
But Australian trainer's moment of glory tinged with sadness with passing of an aunt
It was his biggest career success - his first Group 1 with Aramco in Saturday's $800,000 Lion City Cup - but trainer Shane Baertschiger was not his usual cheerful self.
No-one could blame him for looking a little downcast even as the spotlight shone on him at the winner's parade. After all, while he won, he also lost - the passing of a loved one.
Baertschiger flew back to Melbourne for his aunt's funeral last Tuesday and, even if that Group 1 hurrah was a red-letter day to his training career, no happy event could replace a sad one.
"It hasn't sunk in yet. It might later, I've had a rough week," he said as he choked back tears before the prize presentation ceremony.
Recomposing himself, he began to pay tribute to his stable staff, headed by indefatigable assistant trainer Scott Bailey.
His deputy had looked after his horses, especially his Lion City Cup duo of Aramco and his star three-year-old Bold Thruster, who ran sixth as the $25 second favourite. Aramco was the third fancy at $33. Runner-up Lim's Cruiser was the hot $7 favourite.
"The stable has done a great job while I was away for my aunt's funeral," said the lanky Baertschiger, popularly known as Stretch at Kranji .
"This horse (Aramco) has really come on this season. I made the right decision to not run him in the Rocket Man Sprint and it's all worked out well."
Ridden by Singapore champion Vlad Duric - the only jockey to boast a 100 per cent strike rate with Aramco, having won at his two previous associations - the six-year-old unsurprisingly whipped up the rear after breaking from the outermost alley. Zac Kasa (Michael Rodd) dictated terms up front.
Not quite the leader that was expected given that noted frontrunner Bold Thruster (John Powell) had fluffed his lines at the start before quickly recovering to settle in a one-out one-back position in fourth place.
Still, Aramco was shaping up more and more like his best chance. All week, the boom was more on Bold Thruster, given he is the up-and-coming three-year-old, even if he was not so well in at the weights.
Duric improved Aramco off the back of Lim's Cruiser to swing out the widest at the top of the straight.
Up front, a compounding Zac Kasa was coming back, impeding his own stablemate Mister Yeoh (Ben Thompson) in the backwash.
Gingerella's (Glen Boss) lack of class was showing as the Perth mare failed to make significant headway at the 200m mark.
Lim's Cruiser was, however, hot on the heels of the leaders the moment he was exposed for his run after coming off a smothered run for Hong Kong champion Zac Purton.
Lim's Cruiser did rock up as the runs came up and, for a second, he looked on the cusp of a third consecutive hurrah in the Lion City Cup. But he had not reckoned with the fresh horse on the scene - Aramco.
Gathering momentum at a rate of knots, Baertschiger's game sprinter tackled the champion with plenty of cheek, whizzing his way past to eventually get the money by a neck.
The luckless Mister Yeoh charged home well once he saw daylight to take third place, 2¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 08.99sec for the 1,200m on the short curse.
"He's done an amazing job to beat the best sprinter (Lim's Cruiser) at level weights," said Baertschiger.
"At the weights, I always thought Aramco would be a better chance than Bold Thruster."
Aramco has now won nine times from 21 starts , taking his prize money to swell past the $1 million mark for Aramco Stable.
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