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Knippenberg brings more good fortune

Kiwi owners Fortuna bag Group 3 win at home and open 2023 account at Kranji

The Fortuna NZ Racing Stable had a good Saturday, not at one office, but two – and located 8,500km apart.

The all-conquering Kiwi outfit toasted to Group success in its own backyard first, when veteran stayer Leaderboard took out the Group 3 Wellington Cup (3,200m).

Two hours later, while the champagne was still flowing at the Trentham racecourse, John Galvin’s merry bunch were cheering home their first 2023 Kranji winner.

The stable’s debutant Knippenberg snared the top prize in the $75,000 Restricted Maiden race (1,200m) with Ronnie Stewart astride.

No doubt, the New Zealand victory would garner more headlines, but neither the difference in class and prize money – the Wellington Cup carries a purse of NZ$300,000 (S$255,000) – nor the geographical distance mattered all that much to connections.

Even if they had to watch the race “live” on television, the thrill of seeing the tangerine silks flying high at any winner’s circle in the world is priceless.

Besides, racing has become such a global game.

Leaderboard’s trainer is none other than former four-time Singapore champion Mark Walker, who also looked after Fortuna’s horses in Kranji before he returned in 2022.

“John Galvin just won the Wellington Cup. I think they’ll be celebrating a fair bit in New Zealand,” said fellow New Zealander Logan, who took over Fortuna’s and Te Akau Stable’s horses from Walker.

Logan credited Galvin for his talent-scouting acumen.

Knippenberg’s record of one third from two starts in the countryside in New South Wales, Australia, would have been missed by many.

“Once again, John is the best at picking these horses at the Inglis Digital sale,” said Logan.

“This horse ticked all the boxes for him, and he was quite certain he would make it in Singapore. But it’s still early days, so we’ll take it one race at a time.”

The I Am Invincible three-year-old did not give much away at his one barrier trial on Jan 19 either, when a rather plain third to Watery.

But Knippenberg ($30) was a lot more dynamic on Saturday, sitting right on the hammer of leader and the better-fancied ($16) fellow debutant Star North (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin).

He waited for the home straight to turn the tables.

Star North did not shirk the fight, but Knippenberg finally wore him down and skipped away.

The long stalemate between the duelling pair proved costly for the $12 favourite, Popeyethesailorman.

Hopelessly snookered in behind, the Manoel Nunes-ridden, Tim Fitzsimmons-trained galloper needed fresh air more badly than a can of spinach.

He had to switch across two pairs of heels to bust out. But Knippenberg was already safely home by 1 3/4 lengths. Star North was third, another length away.

The winning time was 1min 10.32sec for the 1,200m on the long course.

“He could have led but the long course was a concern. We then decided to put him behind the speed and Ronnie rode him a treat,” said Logan.

“I wasn’t worried about the wet as he’s raced over such tracks in Australia.”

Then prepared by Australia’s leading trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, Knippenberg ran seventh on debut on a soft track at Goulburn.

He then improved with a third placing over a similar surface at his next start in Bathurst.

Logan was more worried about the quality of opposition her newcomer was testing his mettle against.

“He had a nice draw (barrier No. 3), but there were some nice horses from Tim Fitzsimmons and Mike Clements (Mewar, 7th) in it,” she said.

“I would have been satisfied if he finished in the first five, but he’s won, which is great. There’s still improvement to come out of him, though.”

While the runner-up to reigning champion Fitzsimmons was at her second 2023 winner, after Aftermath saluted earlier, Stewart was also bringing a slugglish start to an end.

“He was well prepared and he handled the surface very well,” said the Australian of his account opener.

“He looks a nice horse who can go through his grades. It was a quality race and the form will hold up.”