Lim's Cruiser to race in England
Gray's champion sprinter invited for the prestigious Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot
Trainer Stephen Gray will have another crack at an English feature race, after Emperor Max in 2015.
This time, he will be represented by Singapore champion sprinter Lim's Cruiser in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes over 1,200m at Royal Ascot on June 22.
In fact, the invitation from the British scouts had been received well before Lim's Cruiser's second to Aramco in Saturday's Group 1 Lion City Cup over 1,200m, a race most thought he would win easily for the third year running.
"I've been chewing on it for so long it's given me a headache," said Gray.
"If Lim's Cruiser had won by a neck, we'd all been jumping up and down, and we'd definitely be going to Ascot. But, then, he got beat a neck, what do we do now?
"I've regularly been speaking to Mick Dittman (Lim's Stable's racing manager) since he got beaten. I told him I saw nothing wrong with him or that run, and what we were going to do with him if he doesn't go to England?
"There's nothing until that Polytrack race (Group 2) Merlion Trophy (1,200m) on Aug 25. He can still come back for that race and later have a crack at the Raffles Cup (Sept 22) over the mile, which will be a test for him.
"We thought about it and actually saw more reasons to go to England than not to go."
From the defrayed cost of travelling halfway around the world to having more irons in the fire than at Kranji, Gray could go on and on - with the top hat and tail a fancy bonus.
"It's a subsidised trip which won't cost a lot. It's the right race to have a go, we're not going for just the top hats," he said.
"It's also predicted the race (Diamond Jubilee) won't be as strong this year. If he gets rain and he handles the straight, he could be a chance.
"We went with Emperor Max who ran seventh in the British Champions Sprint Stakes over 1,200m in 2015. But he had issues, he was a known bleeder and that may have prevented him from running third."
Gray said the biggest draw is, if Lim's Cruiser runs well, there is an opportunity to either run him in the Group 1 Darley July over 1,200m on July 13. There is also a Group 2 race over 1,400m at Goodwood on July 30.
"Even if he doesn't go well, at least, he has these options while he has nothing here until Aug 25. We might as well go there," said the Kiwi.
"It's a nice set-up, he gets the sun on his back, there are green paddocks. Horses thrive in such an environment, they come back refreshed.
"Emperor Max loved it there and came back a better horse. Even Lim's Cruiser settled well in Hong Kong and, even if he didn't win (seventh in Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint over 1,200m on Dec 9), he came back a stronger horse."
Still, the fact the eight-time winner failed in his bid for three Lion City Cups, beaten by a horse he was supposed to have his measure of, did dent his enthusiasm for England, but the sport-mad rugbyman in Gray loves a good scrum.
"It's always been my dream to have horses good enough to take on overseas horses. That's what it's all about, represent Singapore on the international stage, people forget it's a sport and not always about the punting side," he said.
"Lim's Cruiser is one such horse who deserves to have a shot. It'll be an honour for Mr Lim (Siah Mong), a great supporter of racing for so many years, and myself to have a horse run at Ascot."
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