Return to the top in QEII Cup
Prosperous Return gives Clements first G1 win since 2020, Bayliss first G1 win in Singapore
Plans went out the window from barrier rise, but Prosperous Return thrived on impromptu tactics to score a gusty win in the $300,000 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1,800m) at Kranji on Saturday.
The annual race was this year held in memoriam of the late monarch who died on Sept 8.
From a wide alley (12), the instructions from trainer Michael Clements were to press forward towards a handy spot in the 14-horse field, but a tardy getaway threw the first spanner in the works.
Still, a rearward spot in transit was not the end of the world for the Fighting Sun five-year-old, as he had secured half of his previous six wins by coming from behind.
At the halfway mark, he spotted Ricardo Le Grange’s leaders, Hongkong Great (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) and Senor Don (Krisna Thangamani), about eight lengths.
But 200m later, Jake Bayliss decided to get on his bike. Prosperous Return began circling the field with a searching run five wide.
With the memory still fresh of his last start when he surprisingly peaked, many wondered about the wisdom of that midrace move.
The shot had been fired, Bayliss had already committed, but to his credit, his daring gamble paid off.
The Tivic Stable-owned gelding swung for home the widest, before swooping down on Hongkong Great to hit the front at the 250m.
Meanwhile, the favourite Relentless (Manoel Nunes) was hamstrung in traffic, while the others were paddling away.
But Prosperous Return, whose only previous 1,800m test came in the 2021 QEII Cup, when he ran a dour fifth to Hard Too Think, also started to get the wobbles after going around the Cape.
Bayliss, who had never made his Kranji Group 1 dreams a secret, pulled the whip on the $90 chance.
Behind, another trio of long shots but proven stayers Sacred Croix (Wong Chin Chuen), Minister (Matthew Kellady) and Circuit Mission (Benny Woodworth) came nibbling away. But Prosperous Return fell in by a neck.
In a four-way battle for the minors, Sacred Croix just beat Minister by a nose for second. The judge could not split Hongkong Great and Circuit Mission for fourth, another length away.
The winning time was 1min 47.32sec for the 1,800m on the long course.
Clements was, however, not on hand to lead in his first Group 1 winner for 2022 – and overall sixth.
The Zimbabwe-born trainer is still in Australia after attending the Inglis Ready2Race sale in Sydney, while waiting for the Magic Millions Gold Coast 2YOs in Training sale to start.
“I watched the race in my hotel room, and I sure made some noise. It was great to win another Group 1,” said Clements, whose last Group 1 success came with Big Hearted in the 2020 Singapore Gold Cup, the year he also captured his first Singapore champion trainer title.
“Don’t forget he’s a horse who bled at his first 2022 start when he won with Nunes.
“I gave him a chance today, but there was a question mark if he would see the trip out. He’s run well over longer distances, but it remained to be seen if he could do it at that level.
“He ran great last time out, but the way the race panned out just didn’t suit him.
“He has maintained his good form. The race didn’t suit him today either, with the wide barrier and after he missed the start. But it all worked out in the end.
“The plan was to ride him more forward. But, after he missed the start, Jake had to drop him at the rear, he did a good job to still give him some sort of chance.”
A three-time New Zealand Group 1 winner, the young Australian jockey said Saturday’s milestone would eclipse his first Kranji “black type” win with Golden Monkey in July’s Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1,400m).
“It’s right at the top. I was on a high for three weeks after the Group 2,” he said.
“I’ll be on a high a lot longer this time. Bring on the Gold Cup.”
The 2,000m is uncharted waters, but Clements is pressing on.
“He’s in a rich vein of form and he’ll go to the Gold Cup next, just like the other three horses. He’ll still get in at a nice weight,” he said.