Highest-rated pair eye Merlion trophy
Lim’s Kosciuszko and King Arthur look the part in preparation for first feature of 2023
Back after a year’s break, it is the first feature race of 2023, and already it looks like the “kings” of the sprints are all set for battle.
It is the Merlion Trophy.
A Singapore Group 3 race over the Polytrack 1,200m, it carries a prize purse of $110,000, the same as when the gutsy mare Celavi won on Nov 27, 2021.
Once again, the weight-for-age event has brought out some of the best sprinters residing at Kranji and none more noteworthy than the horses who will carry the No. 1 and No. 2 saddlecloths respectively.
We are talking about Lim’s Kosciuszko (111 points) and King Arthur (105), the only two runners with three-figure ratings.
They will, undoubtedly, be the sentimental favourites on Saturday. And rightfully so.
Together, they have won 20 races, with Lim Kosciuszko taking 11 of those. Well, either one can bring home the goodies.
In preparation for the event, both were out on the training track on Tuesday morning, putting the finishing touches for the opening feature of the Singapore racing calendar.
Both are in immaculate condition.
Lim’s Kosciuszko, a winner two starts back when beating the very-talented Golden Monkey in a 1,200m sprint, had bang-in-form jockey Wong Chin Chuen aboard when out for a spot of cantering.
It will be the dual-Group 1 winner’s first race since his last placing in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) on Dec 11, 2022.
Trained by Daniel Meagher, the five-year-old, who has so far amassed $800,000, could not be in better racing condition.
Come Saturday, he will have a trainload of fans.
Then there was that other marvel, King Arthur.
He had a more serious hit-out.
With Kranji’s champion hoop Manoel Nunes in the saddle, he ran out 600m in 39sec.
It was a fine piece of work, indicative of a good horse ready for the task ahead.
Trained by Donna Logan, who opened her 2023 season with a double (Aftermath and newcomer Knippenberg) last Saturday, King Arthur has all the credentials to lift the trophy.
A son of I Am Invincible, he was a gallant second to Lim’s Kosciuszko in the Group 1 Lion City Cup (1,200m) on Aug 14, 2022.
He notched his ninth victory two starts later in October in a Kranji Stakes A event over 1,200m on turf.
It was on Jan 23 that he opened his season with a sixth-place finish in a similar race.
Owned by Fortuna NZ Racing Stable, which races Knippenberg, King Arthur will be right at home under the Merlion Trophy conditions.
He has won over the track and trip and the 57.5kg that he and the rest of his male rivals will have to carry will not be much of a bother.
Celavi, the only mare in the capacity field, will shoulder 56kg.
Back at Kranji after a disappointing adventure in South Korea in September, the Michael Clements-trained six-year-old clocked 42.7 for her 600m gallop.
It was on Jan 7 that Celavi had her first start for the 2023 season.
That day, when ridden by apprentice jockey Ibrahim Mamat, she had it tough all the way, having to race wide and without cover.
To her credit, at the finish of that Poly 1,100m scurry, she still managed to get to within three lengths of the three-figure winner and stablemate, Ocean Crossing.
Celavi is an honest sort of galloper who loves the alternate surface.
Her claim to fame has to be her gutsy win in the 2021 edition, which she won rather easily.
Then ridden by Louis-Philippe Beuzelin, Celavi found the front at the get-go and never looked back, easily holding off Starlight.
Fame Star took third.
Gold Star, who ran fourth in that contest, will be having another tilt at the Trophy and he was another of the star workers, running the 600m in 39.6.
Another of trainer Tim Fitzsimmons’ gems, he had one win in 2022.
That was on April 30 and, to his credit, he beat Lim’s Kosciuszko over 1,400m.
Already a seven-year-old, Gold Star still has loads of racing left in him.
In addition to Tuesday’s hit-out, Fitzsimmons has, in the new year, already sent his charge to two trials, the latest being last Thursday.
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