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Patience pays off for Auspicious King

Promising sort held up by tendon injury, gelding op but Khoo now eyes 3YO series

A gelding operation cut short more than Auspicious King would have bargained for – his 2023 two-year-old plans as well.

One year later, trainer Leslie Khoo is reaping the long-term benefit of his brave decision – a better shot as a three-year-old.

“I bought him at the 2022 Karaka Ready-To-Run sale for the Two-Year-Old races,” said Khoo.

“But I couldn’t get him ready in time as he was too coltish. We had to geld him.

“After the operation, he was only fit to race after he turned three. So, he missed the Two-Year-Old races.

“At his first two runs, he ran third, then second. It was all good.”

The runs certainly lived up to the standards Khoo had been hoping for when he first laid eyes on the son of Per Incanto, both at the sale ring and in the pedigree catalogue.

“I knew he had potential. He has a full sister, Inca Belle, who won three in a row as a two-year-old in New Zealand,” he said.

“I also liked his trials and his overall conformation. My agent Clint Isdale bought him for NZ$60,000 (S$49,300) for me.”

Unfortunately, Auspicious King, whom Khoo had then sold to one of his longest-serving supporters, Teo Peng Seng, of the Trend Stable, did not get a chance to frank the promising form further.

“He had a tendon injury after his last run (Sept 23),” said Khoo.

“As he’s got so much potential, we just had to rest him for a couple of months, and bring him back later.”

Once again, Khoo had to keep a lid on the Auspicious King buzz. Plans were shelved for the gelding’s own good for the second time.

Khoo’s patience was finally rewarded in the $20,000 Open Maiden race (1,200m) on Feb 17.

Sent out as the even-money favourite, Auspicious King was eased off the early speed battle in sixth place amid a cluster of horses.

Launched on the outside by Bruno Queiroz upon straightening, he quickly put his rivals to the sword, beating a game Rubik Kid (Krisna Thangamani) by 1¾ lengths.

Leader Lucky Goal (Manoel Nunes) held on for as long as he could, but conceded third place late to Ben’s Champion (Jaden Lloyd) by a neck.

The winning time was 1min 9.22sec for the 1,200m on the short course.

Khoo has won several Group accolades as a jockey, but has yet to break his hoodoo as a trainer in 16 years at Kranji.

However, the 70-year-old was in no hurry to brand Auspicious King as the horse who could fill that glaring gap.

“He’ll go for the Three-Year-Old races, but one step at a time,” he said.

“The horse has improved but he’s still not 100 per cent.

“Bruno has been riding him in the trials and he asked for the ride. He was very confident he would finish in the top three.”

The win helped Queiroz cement his first place on the log on 14 wins, one clear of fellow Brazilian and reigning champion Nunes.

Khoo was actually one of the first trainers to put Queiroz on at his first couple of days at Kranji in July 2023, albeit without success.

By coincidence, the first of only three previous Khoo-Queiroz pairings was the other two-year-old Khoo bought along with Auspicious King at that Ready To Run sale, Big Max.

If the higher NZ$120,000 price tag (double Auspicious King’s) is anything to go by, Big Max would be a bigger catch, but the results have fallen short thus far.

Unlike his stablemate, the son of Charm Spirit did not miss the 2YO races.

Queiroz actually rode him in its feature, the Group 3 Singapore Golden Horseshoe (1,200m) on July 23.

Big Max showed his customary speed, but compounded in the straight to finish seventh to Greatham Boy.

He then ran a nice second, followed by a fourth place, from which he, however, returned lame.

“Big Max had a sesamoid injury to the off-fore after his last run. He’s also coming back in two weeks’ time,” said Khoo.

“Bruno has kept asking me about Big Max ever since he rode him in the Group 3 race last year.

“Hopefully, he gets back to his old form and he could be another 3YO horse, too.”

manyan@sph.com.sg

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