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Big night is over, now back to basics

After bagging one award with 4YO Golden Monkey, Fitzsimmons turns to Class 3 trio

The night was all about Lim’s Kosciuszko, Daniel Meagher and the Lim’s Stable at the 2023 Singapore Racing Awards on May 28, but trainer Tim Fitzsimmons did not go home empty-handed.

Without surprise, the Australian’s stable star Golden Monkey picked up the trophy for Singapore champion four-year-old – among two other prizes left for the rest, the now Sydney-based Coin Toss in the three-year-old category and David Kok’s Pacific Emperor as the Polytrack champion.

With the last two of the three legs of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge under his belt, the son of Star Turn was a unanimous choice among the panel of voters.

As Fitzsimmons reminisced about that campaign, it was Golden Monkey’s pulsating win in the grand final, the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1,800m), that marked him the most.

“We just got beaten in the Derby (Relentless beaten a nose by Lim’s Kosciuszko) the year before. So it was great to come back and go one better the following year,” he said.

“He’s been a great horse. To come back after his three-year-old season and do it again as a four-year-old, it’s a great effort.

“It’s a great bunch of owners, there are probably 60 or 70 of them in this horse.

“He’s very special to the stable, I’m very proud of him.”

In 2024, up in open company, Golden Monkey has kept showing his class, even winning the Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1,400m) earlier.

Unfortunately, at level weights against Lim’s Kosciuszko, it was too steep a mountain to climb, even if the bold chestnut never lost any admirers.

The 4YO Challenge has been discontinued in the final horse racing season, but its three legs will still be held as standalone races.

Fitzsimmons’ 2024 flag bearer Lightning Strike will have big horseshoes to fill when he takes a tilt at the last two 4YO races, the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1,600m) on June 30 and the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1,800m) on July 21.

Lightning Strike is skipping the first one, the Group 3 Silver Bowl, on June 9 due to the 1,400m trip being too sharp for him.

Backed down to solid favouritism at his first-up run from a five-week break, in the Class 3 (1,800m) on May 25, the four-time winner looked a serious threat when he came from near-last for Ryan Curatolo, but could only manage third to So Hi Class.

While some could have expected better from a Derby hopeful, Fitzsimmons begged to differ.

“Of course, we always want to win, but I’m still happy with his third,” he said.

“He was up against older horses, but he also peaked in the last 50m because he has not raced in five weeks. There aren’t a lot of Class 3 staying races.

“He’ll be a lot fitter for the second leg (Stewards’ Cup).”

It is also a lack of suitable Class 3 races that has kept his bold front runner Illustrious in his box more often.

The Top Echelon six-year-old has not been sighted for eight weeks, but will resurface in the $70,000 Class 3 (1,100m) on June 1.

The Buffalo Stable stalwart has not saluted since the last of his six wins more than a year ago.

He won his barrier trial on May 23 but, then again, he has won most of them (16 from 27) throughout his career.

“His last start was back on April 6. It’s been a long time between runs as there are no races for him,” said Fitzsimmons.

“There aren’t many Class 3 races on Polytrack for him. That’s why there is a long gap between runs.

“He is drawn a bit wide (seven), but I still expect him to run a good race this week.”

After first jumping on him in the trial, Curatolo will stay on for his first race-ride on the ghostly grey, continuing his budding partnership with the Fitzsimmons yard.

“Ryan and I have had a bit of luck together in the last few months,” said Fitzsimmons. “I actually approached (Manoel) Nunes for the ride, but he was already on Ejaz.”

The 2022 Singapore champion trainer saddles two more runners in the race – Hurricane (another Buffalo Stable galloper) and Dancing Light.

They have drawn the extreme poles in the starting stalls – Hurricane, who will be ridden by leading jockey Bruno Queiroz, in one, and Dancing Light, who will be ridden by Krisna Thangamani, in 10.

“Hurricane is up in class but he has drawn barrier No. 1, which is a bonus,” said Fitzsimmons.

“Dancing Light can mix his form and has drawn wide. I hope he puts in a good run.”