Countofmontecristo back with a bang
Leading trainer Michael Clements' champion heads the many highlights as racing resumes at Kranji
Racing fans were treated to plenty of highlights at Kranji on Saturday, as Singapore racing resumed from the three-month coronavirus-induced lockdown with a record number of races.
A record 167 horses competed in the 14-race meeting with capacity 12-horse fields for $710,000 in total prize money. It would have been 168 if one horse was not withdrawn on veterinary advice after ducking under the starting gates.
Leading trainer Michael Clements' Countofmontecristo bounced from the enforced break to provide the biggest thrill in the main event - the $100,000 Class 1 race over the Polytrack 1,200m - despite conceding weight to all his rivals.
Trainer Ricardo Le Grange's Rocket Star also mesmerised with his spectacular demolition job in Class 4 to establish himself as a top horse in the making.
In fact, racegoers had experienced the adrenaline rush from the first race, when the $11 favourite Lim's Shot moved up from last to beat the $26 second favourite Performante by a mere neck after a tense battle.
The trainer Jerome Tan-jockey Marc Lerner combination served up another thriller in the next race with the aptly named The Brotherhood, who got up in the last bounce to beat the $9 favourite and newcomer Maceo by just a short head.
Back to Countofmontecristo, the Joe Giovanni Singh-owned money-spinner looked vulnerable with the top impost of 59kg.
It would be all right if his rivals were ordinary gallopers, but they were top horses in their own right. They included the $12 favourite Fame Star, who was unbeaten in his last six starts, crack sprinter Skywalk, Singapore Gold Cup winner Mr Clint, reigning Horse of the Year I'm Incredible and former champion War Affair.
But, well-ridden by treble-winning Frenchman Louis-Philippe Beuzelin with the right tempo, the big-hearted $22 chance produced a top run in the final 200m to score by a length from Star Of Jupiter.
Mr Clint, a stayer, finished an eye-catching third. Watch him.
"It was another genuine effort from Countofmontecristo - good win with 59kg," said Clements, who remains on top of the pack on 24 winners with another victory by El Primero.
The Zimbabwe-born handler led by a winner going into Saturday's meeting. Reigning champion Mark Walker fired early with Restricted Maiden newcomer Ronaldo's Dream and Admiral Winston to go one ahead, but Clements rallied back.
Next month's $1.5 million Group 1 Kranji Mile now beckons for "The Count", who has amassed just about $15,000 shy of $2 million in stakes.