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Get right back on the Monkey

Classy horse gets Golden opportunity to win again in a field dropped to only four runners

Even before the two scratchings came about, Golden Monkey was already the standout in the $100,000 Kranji Stakes A race (1,400m) on June 16.

With no Lim’s Kosciuszko in his way, the coast was clear for the 2023 Singapore Derby winner to bounce back to winning ways in a small six-horse field.

Down to only four runners, the coast is even clearer.

Of the two withdrawn horses, Senor Don had been showing poor form and his non-participation is rather inconsequential, but last-start winner Ejaz would have made for an interesting challenger, even if he was rising in grade.

Golden Monkey might not have saluted since the Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1,400m) on Feb 11, but he lost no admirers at his next three starts.

A combination of luckless runs and poor rides were behind the two thirds and one fourth, even if at the end of the day, Lim’s Kosciuszko’s superiority was unequivocal.

Until the two arch-rivals cross swords again in the four majors left – the Lion City Cup (1,200m), Raffles Cup (1,600m), Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1,800m) and Singapore Gold Cup (2,000m) – the Star Turn five-year-old gets a golden opportunity to rekindle his winning flair in an easier contest.

He has come out in great shape since his closing third to Lim’s Kosciuszko in the Group 1 Kranji Mile (1,600m) on May 18. It showed at his barrier trial win on June 6.

Ridden by Ryan Curatolo, who will be his first-time race-partner on June 16, Golden Monkey came off a fourth place in transit to take the trial without being fully tested.

As a foretaste of what is to come, Ghalib’s (Manoel Nunes) close second may well define where the only threat will hail from in the concluding stages.

The two horses paired off from the 500m, with Ghalib taking the wider course and finishing only half-a-length behind while clocking the same closing sectionals.

A 3kg pull in weights is what the race conditions have afforded Ghalib to make up for the difference in class.

No doubt, Golden Monkey’s 59.5kg is a concern to his connections, but Ghalib may still need to find a few more lengths to bridge that gap, especially in a four-horse race where horses are often judged purely on merit.

In saying this, tactics can often play dirty tricks in small fields, such as a muddling-run race that leads to a sit-and-sprint race.

But Golden Monkey has proven time and again he has the change of gears to allow him to adapt to any speedmap.

If Ghalib is one up on Golden Monkey in one area, it is his speed pattern versatility. He can lead just as he is effective from behind.

Should the contest turn into a cat-and-mouse affair, Steven Burridge’s six-time winner may have an edge over Golden Monkey.

There is a higher likelihood the pace will be set by General Command, though.

Richard Lim’s ward will be able to dictate with less pressure this time. It will not surprise many if an uncontested lead takes him a long way down the home stretch, but a place is more likely.

Chances are he may even lose a podium finish to the “veteran” of the race, So Hi Class.

Jason Ong’s Irish-bred eight-year-old is not slowing down as his gutsy last-start Class 3 (1,800m) win on May 25 indicates. He would have preferred longer, but he can still have a say over 1,400m.