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Flying Nemo the Vampire slayer

Pacific Vampire toothless at 3rd start, bubble burst by $281 shot

Death and taxes are still the only certainties in life.

That was the stark reminder in Race 10 on May 18, when raging favourite Pacific Vampire got rolled, slain by $281 long shot Flying Nemo.

Yet, nothing untoward could have foretold his downfall in the $70,000 Class 3 1,400m race, the penultimate event in the 11-race programme.

By the time the Kranji Mile was put astern, favourite backers had more or less had a good day filling their pockets.

Out of nine races, five first-elects, Buuraq Sixty-One ($19), Lim’s Saltoro ($6), Greatham Boy ($14), Super Baby ($16) and Lim’s Kosciuszko ($7) in the Kranji Mile, had obliged.

The others, Centurion ($30), Cheerful Baby ($31), Ace Of Diamonds ($27) and Hole In One ($34), were also in the market.

Value chasers who had been seeking the next roughie to buck the trend probably thought of skipping Race 10.

The unbeaten Jason Ong-trained Pacific Vampire had frightened them off.

In two races and three trials, he had obliterated his rivals by an aggregate of almost 28 lengths.

The Class 3 field had a few tougher nuts to crack than the one he beat at his second win in a 1,200m race on April 27. The trip was also uncharted territory.

In 13 Australian starts (which included three wins over 1,000m), the furthest he had been was 1,100m.

But local punters were still sanguine about the Vampire carving up his rivals again, backing him down to solid $8 favouritism.

From barrier rise to the 400m, the race had gone to script.

After taking the lead 1,100m out, Pacific Vampire was jogging and raring to go upon straightening.

Like he did at his last win, jockey Bruno Queiroz gave a quick glance behind before flicking on the afterburners. At that point, with his rivals all looking like they had been run into the ground, his odds would have probably been slashed further to $6.

But, in a split second, everything just turned like night and day for Pacific Vampire. Instead of kissing his rivals goodbye, he inexplicably started to paddle.

Smelling blood, the swoopers descended like a pack of wolves – or werewolves, to stay in character.

Energy Baby (Ruan Maia) was the first to pounce and even shot clear as Pacific Vampire got swamped in a heartbeat.

But Flying Nemo (Carlos Henrique) jumped out of nowhere to deny Energy Baby by a nose, with So Hi Class (Koh Teck Huat) third another two lengths away.

Pacific Vampire ran eighth, beaten five lengths off the winner.

“I think he bled, I’m not sure,” said Queiroz.

“He was very relaxed early but, in the last 300m, he just stopped.”

While it is back to the drawing board for Queiroz and Ong, the pleasant surprise drew big smiles from the Desmond Koh camp and Henrique, and even a few jokes.

“I brought garlic with me today,” said Henrique.

“But seriously, it was a big surprise. I thought we were too far off.

“At the 400m, I got confident when I saw the favourite in trouble.

“I asked my horse for more, and he showed a great turn of foot.”

Koh’s assistant trainer Lee Soo Hin was more shocked by the hot favourite’s meltdown than his own horse’s win – his sixth in 15 starts that also produced four placings and more than $220,000 in stakes.

“He’s been working very well. He’s only a small horse, but he’s very gutsy,” said the former jockey.

“We thought the favourite would be hard to beat, but he punctured. The pace also suited our horse.”

Top fancies restored order in the last race, the $50,000 Class 4 Division 1 1,200m event.

Joint favourites Dancing Supremo (Ryan Curatolo) and the Queiroz-ridden King Zoustar ran 1-2.

manyan@sph.com.sg

HORSE RACING