Makanani set for Gold Cup after Raffles Cup victory
Japanese-bred mare wins the 1,600m feature in three-way thriller to give Lerner his first Group 1
Trainer Hideyuki Takaoka and jockey Marc Lerner took their successful partnership to a new level with a Group 1 prize yesterday, courtesy of $93 outsider Makanani in the $800,000 Raffles Cup over 1,600m.
But victory wasn't easy. It was hard-earned.
Lerner, who has combined with Takaoka to win many races this season, had to give his all to get Makanani to the line first by a nose from the fast-finishing and luckless Mr Clint.
Safeer ran a bottler, finishing only a short head away in third.
Another long shot Preditor, who looked the winner until the shadows of the winning post, was fourth, half a length behind.
The all-outsider finish resulted in no takers for the tierce and quartet bets. The big jackpots carried forward to the next race were $41,896 and $30,000 respectively.
It was, in fact, a giant-killing feat by Makanani against a star-studded Raffles Cup field. She was one of only three runners without Group-winning form in the race. The remaining 12 contenders had at least a Group success to their names.
The other two non-Group winners were Safeer and fellow Michael Clements-trained stablemate Eye Guy.
Clements sent out the favourite Countofmontecristo, who could only finish 11th. It was the last-start Group 2 Merlion Trophy winner's third Raffles Cup bid. He finished fourth in the last two years.
After a good jump from Gate 9, Lerner parked Makanani in midfield. Eye Guy set the pace from Preditor, the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy victor.
They were followed by Countofmontecristo, Group 1 Singapore Derby winner Sun Marshal, Group 2 EW Barker Trophy winner Mister Yeoh and Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup winner Elite Invincible.
Safeer and Mr Clint, the Group 1 Singapore Guineas winner who beat all but Sun Marshal by a neck in the Derby in July, were way back in the rear.
Eye Guy came back to the field on straightening. Preditor pounced and streaked ahead. Countofmontecristo was up there but was no good thing.
Just when Preditor looked to have the race in the bag, Makanani and Safeer lunged ahead. Jockey Bernardo Pinheiro jetted home on Mr Clint like he did in the Derby.
In a touch-and-go finish, Makanani got the verdict by the barest of margins from Mr Clint, with just a short head to Safeer.
"That's my first Group 1, I'm very happy," said Lerner, who rode only two winners last year from September but has ridden 27 this season. They included Pisca Pisca in yesterday's Race7. Both his winners were owned by Masa Otani of Big Valley Stable of triple Gold Cup hero El Dorado fame.
"Last year was very difficult for me. Then I got the support of the Takaoka stable and I'm lucky to have the chance to ride a horse like this. We know she has the quality. She just needs to settle and I'm sure more distance will be better for her."
One of only two mares in yesterday's Raffles Cup, Makanani will now be set for the $1 million Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup over 2,000m on Nov 10.
"Definitely, the main target is the Gold Cup," said Takaoka, who won the premier classic four times - three with El Dorado and one with Better Life.