Fame and glory again for Crutchley's Star
New Kranji trainer’s smart decision to use 3kg claimer Seow pays dividends for Fame Star
Bold front runner Fame Star turned back the clock with a dashing end-to-end display of speed and resilience that snapped a long run of outs on Saturday.
The US-bred sprinter might be in his fifth season at Kranji, but he has always commanded respect when he rolls forward.
But, since his last win in a Kranji Stakes A race over 1,200m going back to February 2020 first-up from his 2019 Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1,400m) triumph, 18 starts have gone by without his greeting the judge.
The jury was out whether the Twirling Candy seven-year-old had seen better days, but an astute placing in Saturday’s $100,000 Class 1 race over 1,200m provided a resounding answer that there was still plenty of residual value left.
The short course appealed, while trainer Stephen Crutchley’s decision to use leading apprentice jockey Jerlyn Seow to shave off another 3kg from the already light 52kg was another clever move. As if there were not enough stars aligned, the barrier gods gifted them with Gate 2.
However, races are not won on paper but on grass. Fame Star still had some serious rivals to beat.
But, once Seow drove him to a soft lead, neither Kharisma (Marc Lerner), a big flop, nor Makkem Lad (Yusoff Fadzli), his regular speed foe, could deny him his ninth win.
The fast-closing Rocket Star (Manoel Nunes) scythed at the margin, but a love for a good scrap and the 6kg pull in weights saved Fame Star by a head.
Grand Koonta (Wong Chin Chuen) was third, 11/4 lengths away, edging out Mr Malek (Simon Kok) into fourth place by a head.
The winning time was 1min 8.88sec for the 1,200m on the Short Course D.
Crutchley, who had been taking care of Fame Star from Day 1 – be it as assistant-trainer to either John O’Hara or Leslie Khoo – was a happy man after bringing up his second victory and first main race win since he was granted a trainer’s licence this year.
But the Kiwi horseman graciously said it was not about him, but the horse, the owners, the Toast Trusts Stable & Shane McDonnell, and his team.
“It’s really good for Constance Cheng and Shane McDonnell that Fame Star has finally won again,” said Crutchley.
“Shane runs a diving and underwater welding company in New Zealand, and will be sending me some horses.
“It’s my first win in a main race here, but I’m actually happier for the owners and my team. They’ve done a good job with Fame Star.”
The $44 pop may have taken a few by surprise, but not Crutchley.
“He’s been working so well. I felt he was coming back to what he used to be,” he said.
“His last run was encouraging. He was the only one above Makkem Lad to peak at high speed with the other horses and run fifth.
“Today, he had no weight, and I told the little girl she had to make them carry their weight.
“When I saw him kicking hard at the top of the straight, I knew he’d be hard to run down.
“Rocket Star was coming fast, don’t worry about that. He’s a good horse, but we made it.”
Cheng, who watched the race from home, was over the moon that one of her all-time favourites had returned to winning ways.
“He had a light weight. Otherwise, he may not have won. It’s good to see him win after such a long time,” said Cheng.
“The rider rode him well and all credit to Stephen for the good job. I’d also like to thank the new P&CE (president and chief executive Irene Lim) for supporting Stephen in his application for a stable.”
A third shot at the Group 1 Lion City Cup over 1,200m has already been pencilled in as the $750,000 stakes winner’s next target.
But some fancy footwork will be needed with the change from the usual April timeslot to Aug 14 .
“The Polytrack races are coming up, but I’d rather keep him away even if he’s won once over it,” said Crutchley.
“But we’ll have to keep him ticking over until the Lion City Cup. He won’t rest. We’ll see, we may have to run him on Poly after all.”
If Fame Star’s win caught a few unawares, the rest of the 12-race programme was evenly spread between mostly top picks and a handful of unfancied winners.
The $341 bolter St Alwyn in Race 3 the biggest jaw-dropper.
Nunes, Wong and Oscar Chavez shared the riding honours with a treble apiece. It was doubles galore among the trainers – namely season’s leader Tim Fitzsimmons, Michael Clements, Jason Ong, Stephen Gray and Steven Burridge.