It's three straight wins for Ghalib, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

It's three straight wins for Ghalib

Exciting sprinter is still learning his craft, but Burridge is aiming him for Group 1 Lion City Cup

Ghalib keeps stamping himself as a rising star of the Kranji sprinting ranks with a third win on the bounce on April 13.

The soft 4½-length victory in the $100,000 Kranji Stakes A race (1,100m) might be considered as, arguably, the most impressive of his bulging haul of six wins from only 10 starts.

The way regular partner Manoel Nunes did little work to get him home by such a wide margin spoke volumes about the engine under the bonnet.

But it was more the contempt with which the I Am Invincible four-year-old has outrun his rivals at elite level for the second time in a row that mints him as a horse to watch in the coming months before racing ends on Oct 5.

At his last start, he captured a similar event on Feb 17, but the jury was still out whether he could go on an upward spiral, especially with the presence of Group 3 Merlion Trophy winner Pacific Emperor in the April 13 contest.

Punters still backed the Steven Burridge-trained and Al-Arabiya Stable-owned galloper with confidence, slashing his odds further down to $6 when he drew barrier No. 1 – and it proved to be spot-on.

Beginning the best – a sign that the only chink in his armour, his dodgy barrier manners, is all but sorted out – Ghalib held his line on the rails.

But he gladly handed up the lead when Pacific Hero (Jerlyn Seow), Sky Eye (Carlos Henrique) and General Command (Zyrul Nor Azman) whipped around him to inject more speed into the race.

Once he landed into the box seat, he just bided his time until the home turn when he came across the heels of joint leaders Sky Eye and Pacific Hero to draw on level terms.

From the 300m, all Nunes had to do to safeguard victory was point his superior conveyance in the right direction, while occasionally flicking the whip. Pinning his ears back like a smart horse, Ghalib just gobbled up the ground to rally home easing down.

Sacred Gift (Iskandar Rosman) came from last to grab second place, one length clear of The August (Bernardo Pinheiro) while Pacific Emperor (Ruan Maia) ran a disappointing last.

Ghalib covered the 1,100m in 1min 04.28sec, a slick time largely owing to the early cut-throat battle for supremacy.

Burridge, however, said there was more to the push-button win than met the eye.

“Manoel actually asked me to give him some barrier practice on Thursday as he’s been a bit reluctant to go in,” said the veteran Australian handler.

“Today he jumped good, he was actually the quickest out of the gates. But that’s because Manoel gave him one round the back, which probably helped him jump quickly.

“He also drew one, which helped him settle in a nice position throughout. Still, it’s clear that his barrier manners have improved.

“He’s a nice horse who is continually improving. He’s thriving at the stables, he’s a happy horse.”

Burridge has not cast in stone any plans, which are bound to get loftier after such a dominant display, while also mindful Ghalib is four years of age.

“We may look at the first four-year-old race (Group 3 Silver Bowl over 1,400m on June 9),” he said.

“He’s more of a sprinter, but he did win once over 1,400m, but the (Group 1) Lion City Cup (1,200m on July 28) is more his go.

“We’ll just have to see how he pulls up and make a decision from there.”

The stable already has a better four-year-old all-rounder in Makin, another Al-Arabiya ward who just reeled off a hat-trick as well.

Nunes, who has first refusal on Makin, having ridden the son of Written Tycoon to three of his four wins (1,400m to 1,600m), is convinced Ghalib is more of the sprinter archetype.

“Ghalib is a smart horse. He knows exactly what he wants to do,” said the five-time Singapore champion jockey.

“He’s still the boss in the barriers. He doesn’t stay long inside.

“But he jumped well today, and barrier one was a huge advantage. It did get tricky getting to the home turn as you don’t know if you can get out.

“I was looking for room on the outside of Jerlyn Seow’s horse (Pacific Hero) to come out, but I always had plenty of horse under me.

“Once I popped him off the rail, he responded very strongly and cruised away to an easy win.

“Steve will decide if he goes to the first leg of the four-year-old series. He won over 1,400m before, but he just beat Lim’s Craft, who is more of a Class 4 horse.

“I think Ghalib is more of a 1,100m to 1,200m horse.”