Lerner spot-on, Kharisma delivers
Better barrier and forward move seal the deal for Gray-trained money-spinner on Saturday
An adamant Marc Lerner asserted that the wide draw led to Kharisma’s downfall in his previous start as the $15 favourite.
From Gate 11 in the field of 11, his Stephen Gray-trained mount in the Group 3 Merlion Trophy over the Polytrack 1,200m was beaten for speed and was trapped wide.
He eventually finished fifth behind the prolific mare Celavi, who led throughout.
With a better draw (Gate 3) and improvement, as evident from his trial win and his sparkling final gallop, Kharisma gave Lerner the result he expected in Saturday’s $100,000 Kranji Stakes A event over 1,200m on turf.
But the Frenchman had to work overtime to beat the stubborn leader Lim’s Dream by a neck. He clocked 1min 09.90sec. Third was Grand Koonta, three lengths away.
Raced by the Indonesian-owned Dago Stable, Kharisma has brought his win tally to 10 from 23 starts.
The five-year-old Australian-bred was second three times and third thrice as well. He has earned $513,371 in prize money.
“It’s a well-deserved win,” said Lerner, who won the Group 1 Singapore Derby and Queen Elizabeth II Cup with Hard Too Think for Gray last year.
“He had a good draw today and he followed the leader everywhere, and was too good. The leader put up a good fight, but Kharisma has such a will to win.
“I hope he can win a Group race one day. We’ll aim him for the Lion City Cup and I hope he can get a ticket.”
Kharisma will not be at his first stab at the 1,200m Group 1 classic named after Singapore. He was seventh to Lim’s Lightning last year.
Then, the feature race was staged in April, but this year’s edition has been pushed to Aug 14.
Lerner must have been pleased to tuck behind Lim’s Dream, after the two anticipated front runners had problems of their own.
The noted speedster Makkem Lad blew the start, while Celavi was stranded wide after her jump from barrier six.
Celavi’s stablemate and favourite Starlight was expected to challenge the front duo. But, as the track had not been favouring one-paced midfielders all day, the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic winner was also paddling.
It was left to Kharisma to challenge Lim’s Dream in the straight. But the Daniel Meagher-trained and Danny Beasley-ridden outsider raised another gallop.
In a touch-and-go finish, Kharisma prevailed – but by just a neck.
With Gray still in his native New Zealand, his assistant, Lisa O’Shea, said Kharisma was a good doer who has more than earned his oats at the stable.
“We were happy with the way he was going after the break,” added the Kiwi lass. “He trialled nicely last week, and typical of him, he’s actually been doing too well.
“It can be hard to keep the weight off him, but I guess it’s a good problem to have. He’s a really good doer, which is a good sign.
“At his last start, Marc said the horse jumped well, but he didn’t want him to do too much from the wide gate, and eased him back.
“I think he was a bit lost when he found himself further back than usual as he’s normally handy.
“But I have to say, today, the track has been playing in favour of on-pace runners. Dan Meagher’s horse was very brave. But, when our horse went past him, he just kept fighting all the way.”