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Kosciuszko back to basics

After trial win, S’pore Gold Cup winner is ready to take on the world for second time

An “all good” standard reply was half-expected in response to Lim’s Kosciuszko’s last Kranji blowout before embarking on his second Hong Kong adventure.

Trainer Daniel Meagher could have chosen that easy way out, more so when the winning barrier trial under Wong Chin Chuen on Nov 30 did fit the “all good” bill.

Besides, there has hardly ever been a workout from the reigning Singapore Horse of the Year that left anyone indifferent.

But, punctilious to a fault, the Australian would rather not hand out cookie-cutter answers, especially when a HK$32 million (S$5.5 million) race is at stake at Sha Tin on Dec 10, the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile (1,600m).

“I’ll call back. I still need to trot him up,” he said.

A few minutes later, Meagher rang as promised, a touch chirpier. Singapore’s possibly last international runner has been tucked away in his box, just waiting for the float to Changi Airport.

“As I always do, I gave him a trot-up just now. He’s pulled up great, he’s ready to go,” he added.

Meagher is far from being overcautious. He goes through that post-trackwork routine with all his horses every afternoon.

The zeal is rightfully more pronounced for the best horse he has ever trained, but that is because he has learned from his “mistakes”.

The play-pause-repeat mantra has more than ever defined Lim’s Kosciuszko’s unexpected second chance to right the wrong of his last place in the 2022 Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m).

“At least, we’ll get an extra week this time. He’s had four weeks from the Gold Cup to the Hong Kong race, while he had only three weeks last year,” said Meagher.

“Unfortunately, I overthought things. I made him work the Hong Kong way (clockwise) on the track we call the “Hong Kong track”, when he never goes there.

“But, every day, he went there. I also galloped him on the grass in the opposite direction on the day before he took his flight.

“He was working too hard every day, but we thought it was the right thing to do. I really regret it now, I’ve learned from my mistakes.”

Meagher has kept it simple by going back to basics – sticking to the same proven formula that led to 17 wins, seven at Group 1 level.

“This time, we’re doing exactly what he’s been doing from Day 1. He always goes on the back track, his last gallop was in 42sec.

“He had one trial (Nov 30) the week before the race. It’s the same routine he’s always had.

“Once there, he gets the Saturday off, some canter after that, maybe two laps on Monday and Tuesday.

“He never galloped the week before he races. He’s robotic and CC Wong gets on well with him.”

Wong, who rode Lim’s Kosciuszko to seven wins including five at Group 1 level, will, however, be just his track rider at Sha Tin. Top Australian jockey Damian Lane jumps aboard in the big race.

Amid that revamped Hong Kong reboot, Meagher has not changed one thing – the travelling lads.

“He’ll take tomorrow’s afternoon flight with the same grooms as last year, Syam (Samsuri Saadon) and Ayie (Mohd Masuary),” he said.

“They’re a big part of the team. Jimmy (Wong) and myself fly out on another plane a little later.”