Burridge hoping Bakeel can end ‘27-year drought’, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

Burridge hoping Bakeel can end ‘27-year drought’

No 3YO star, but Aussie had links with 1997 Tiger Beer series winner Southerly Wind

Out of the seven trainers in the $110,000 Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1,200m) on April 6, only two are on the honour roll.

Tim Fitzsimmons and Donna Logan won that feature as the first leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge with Golden Monkey (2022) and January (2023) respectively.

Sadly, the famed series is discontinued at Singapore’s farewell 2024 season but the three legs – other two are the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1,400m) on April 27 and the Group 2 Singapore Guineas (1,600m) on May 18 – are still run as standalone features.

Despite there being no bonus up for grabs for winning two legs or all three, Kranji trainers still refer to them as the “3YO series”.

In 2022, Golden Monkey pulled off a “Double Crown” of sorts in the Sprint and Classic, given the Guineas was in abeyance.

In 2023, it is a moot point whether Coin Toss could have become the last Triple Crown winner since the great War Affair in 2014.

The son of Flying Artie became collateral damage as part of the five-horse squad withdrawn on Sprint day following trainer Michael Clements’ positive morphine cases. He went on to win the Classic and the reinstated Guineas.

No reason was given for doing away with the Challenge in 2024. But, should one horse make the clean sweep, nobody would begrudge the winning trainer’s bragging rights to Singapore’s “last 3YO Triple Crown winner”.

Stunningly, one of the seven trainers having a last shot at history has “been there and done that”.

“Not quite,” said Steven Burridge. “But, yes, I was there at Bukit Timah in 1997 when Southerly Wind won all three legs of the very first edition of the 3YO series, then known as the Tiger Beer Triple Challenge.

“I was stable foreman to Mick Kent at the time. Southerly Wind was a very good horse who won with three different top jockeys – Corey Brown, Brett Prebble and Darren Gauci.

“Unfortunately, as a trainer in my own right (since 2005), I didn’t have many good three-year-olds, except for Lim’s Lightning (2019). He won the 2YO race (Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe) but had no luck in the 3YO races.”

Lim’s Lightning eventually moved to Australia and back to Singapore to Daniel Meagher, picking up four Group 1 wins.

Ironically, Burridge’s main 3YO hope in 2024 is himself a stable transfer.

Bakeel was among the Al-Arabiya Stable squad who joined the veteran Australian after Clements quit Kranji in September.

With a promising record that included a debut win, expectations were high but the son of Sioux Nation had to get over a wind operation first.

A first-up second followed by a brilliant Novice (1,400m) win on March 17 in two starts for Burridge have put him in the box seat, but his new handler prefers to err on the side of caution.

“He’s a nice horse. He ran very well first-up, probably better than I thought, considering he was caught wide,” he said.

“He was again caught wide at his next start, but he made a move to get up there, and won a nice race. He’s drawn wide again (nine), but it’s okay.

“He had a wind op, but everything is okay now. He’s going for all three legs of the three-year-old series, even if the second leg and 1,600m leg will suit him better.

“We’re taking the winkers off and putting blinkers on with a shadow roll. (Manoel) Nunes recommended that, they should make him sharper, back to 1,200m.”

Many often pick the Brazilian horseman’s brain for gear tinkering, but maturity is still the key, he said.

“He’s still a big baby and is still learning what racing is all about,” said the five-time Singapore champion jockey.

“When he hits the front, he still doesn’t know what to do. But he will get more confidence with more racing.”

Should Bakeel falter, Burridge does not seem to have the strongest back-up plan in one-time winner Hasten, but the owner-trainer begs to differ.

“His last run was disappointing but he was squeezed out. I expect him to run well. He won’t run last, he’ll do his best,” he said.

“It’s not a big field but it’s an elite field. It’s a very open race.

“There are six to seven chances out of nine. Ace Of Diamonds, Greatham Boy, Pacific Commander, Last Supper are all very good.”