No Kos for concern for Wong
Lim’s Kosciuszko’s rider remains supremely confident despite wide gate in Raffles Cup
It will come as little surprise if Lim’s Kosciuszko’s quote is yet again as short as $6 on Saturday.
Chasing a sixth Group 1 win in the $300,000 Raffles Cup (1,600m), Daniel Meagher’s champion galloper seems to have few hurdles in the way, apart from Golden Monkey, the closing second-best in the Group 1 Lion City Cup (1,200m) a month ago.
The usual suspects like Mr Malek, Katak or Hongkong Great will have another stab at the giant-killing role, but they have their jobs cut out at weight-for-age conditions.
Any chance of an upset is more likely to hail from the newer guard.
Besides Golden Monkey, who will lap up the extra 400m, the in-form Invincible Tycoon will garner some each-way votes as the first-time challenger.
But, if there is to be any chance his unbackable odds may be trimmed down to $7, the outside gate of 11 may be the only possible chink in the armour.
It is not the worst barrier as Katak will jump to his outside in 12 and, over the long backstraight off the 1,600m chute on the short course, it affords more time to jostle for a position.
However, by Lim Kosciuszko’s standards of generally favourable luck at the gates, it is an awkward berth.
In 18 starts, the Kermadec six-year-old has drawn into double digits just once when he suffered one of his only three defeats, in the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup on June 26, 2022 when he drew, by coincidence, 11.
It would turn out to be his third defeat and the last time he saw behinds – at least domestically, because he saw a lot of them in Hong Kong later in December.
Some may argue that Kranji’s undisputed kingpin does not need low draws to destroy whatever opposition is tossed at him.
Jockey Wong Chin Chuen would be in a better position to settle the debate. The Malaysian rider has partnered Lim’s Kosciuszko seven times for six wins, including the rebound from the Hong Kong Sprint loss to an undefeated run at his last four starts this season.
Three successive Group 1s in the Raffles Cup – a rare oddity given the rerun on Saturday – Kranji Mile (1,600m) and Lion City Cup only go to show Wong’s growing confidence since taking over from previous regular partner Danny Beasley.
It should be no different at his eighth pairing.
Statistics buffs may point out that Wong’s only “blemish” came when Lim’s Kosciuszko drew one of his stickiest alleys in eight – and found one better.
It was at Wong’s second leg-up in a Class 1 race (1,400m) in April 2022. Camped outside the leader from the start, he hit the front early and was left a sitting duck for a surprising Gold Star.
Wong not only dismisses any possibility of a remake of such a scenario on Saturday, but he also backs it up with sensible arguments.
“Last time, he was hard to come back underneath you. In that 1,400m race when he got beaten late, he was quite strong and was not relaxed,” said Wong.
“I don’t think the wide gate will be a problem this time. He’s still on the fast side, but nowadays he’s more settled and the ultimate professional in his races.
“Leading up to the Lion City Cup and the Raffles Cup, I’ve been galloping him most of the time and I even ride him every morning.
“Like this morning when he went for a lap of slow canter on the Polytrack. He’s as good as he’s ever been.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way he is going, and also with his temperament.”
While Lim’s Kosciuszko is now the complete package, Wong will still not leave room for any complacency.
“I may not be worried by the wide draw, but it’ll still be a tactical race,” he said.
“I haven’t spoken to Daniel yet, but one thing’s for sure: I won’t change anything.
“As he’s got good gate speed, as usual, I’ll bounce him out. Depending on how things work out, he can be up there or I can also either slot him midfield or further back.
“I can put him where I want, but whatever the case may be, I won’t rush him. I’ll go with my feeling to find a spot where he’s comfortable.”