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Farewell near, but yard still faring well

Trainer Clements closes shop on Saturday, but double shows he has not switched off

Post-race interviews often probe winning trainers about their horses’ targets.

In 25 years of training in Singapore, Saturday was one of the rare times when Michael Clements was left alone with such queries.

Following a double from Pacific Hunter and Pacific Emperor for his biggest supporter, the Pacific Stable, the spiel revolved only around the performances.

The pair were at their last wins for Clements – and possibly, two of his last winners in Singapore.

“It’s a pity I won’t train them any more,” he said.

“But I know they’ll be in good hands. David (Kok) will train Pacific Emperor while Dan (Meagher) will train Pacific Hunter.

“I wish them well. Life goes on.”

Another 30 horses are set to walk away and leave Clements with an empty barn very soon.

On Sept 18, the 2020 Singapore champion trainer dropped the bombshell that Sept 30 would be his last day as a trainer.

He said the situation had become untenable with so many questions around the October 2024 closure being left unanswered for so long.

At his penultimate meeting last Saturday, the winner of more than 800 races at Bukit Timah and, mostly, Kranji, was wearing the wry smile of a trainer who has done his job to the bitter end.

With one last meeting left – three runners are entered – and the alarm clock set to go off at 5am for one more week, that sense of finality might not have sunk in yet.

While it is business as usual, Clements and staff will be kept busy with the clean-up, packing and moving – which will not all be in carton boxes.

“I’ve got only three runners this week. The transfer of horses has already started, even if it’s still work in progress,” he said.

“I know where some are going, but other owners haven’t decided yet, like Falcon and Al-Arabiya.

“The Pacific Stable were among the first to decide, though. They have already moved 11 horses to trainers David Kok, Daniel Meagher and Jason Ong.

“Three of Jason’s run this week, Pacific Star, Pacific Master and Pacific Charm.

“The last four who raced on Saturday, can now move, too. I’m really glad two of them won.”

Despite the gap in class, the two wins were seen as breakthroughs.

Pacific Emperor ($17) was at his first Class 1 victory while Pacific Hunter ($14) has not taken too long to shed his maiden status.

Following a debut sixth a month ago, the Hellbent four-year-old rushed home under a hard-riding Wong Chin Chuen to upstage odds-on favourite Creative Dreams (Vlad Duric) in the $20,000 Open Maiden race (1,400m).

“Pacific Hunter was the better maiden than most of the horses in that race,” said Clements.

“He ran well first-up. He needs more ground, up to 1,600m, but a maiden over 1,400m was ideal.

“Pacific Emperor is a genuine horse on the improve, he always does his best.

“He’s a versatile horse. He can be on the pace, but from barrier No. 3, the jockey used his own initiative.”

Interestingly, it was neither Wong nor Simon Kok (both won twice on Pacific Emperor), the two Pacific’s go-to riders, who held the reins in the $100,000 Class 1 race (1,200m) on Saturday, but Brazilian jockey Bruno Queiroz.

Clements said that an underestimation of the Caravaggio four-year-old’s handicap led to the ad-hoc booking, with happy results.

“We thought Pacific Emperor would get 50kg and that’s why we booked Bruno, who can ride at that weight,” he said.

“CC could still ride him 1.5kg over, but he wanted to be at his best for Lim’s Kosciuszko (in the Raffles Cup, which he duly won).

“But when the weights came out, he was on 52.5kg. As we’ve already asked Bruno, we stuck with him and he rode the horse very well.”

The former two-time Brazil champion jockey turned in a patient ride, worse than midfield, tacking on to favourite Super Salute (Manoel Nunes) everywhere.

The two Brazilians settled down for a good fight inside the last 200m, but the 6.5kg pull in weights eventually told on Super Salute (who carried 59kg).

“He’s very good. He’ll win a Group race one day,” said Queiroz, who scored a treble, having also won on Two Million and February.