Shafrizal on target with Eagle Eye
Malaysian apprentice rides intelligent race on Clements-trained runner
Full marks to apprentice jockey Shafrizal Saleh for bringing Eagle Eye home in Sunday's $85,000 Class 2 sprint over the 1,100m.
And, of course, kudos to trainer Michael Clements for, first of all, having the confidence in the young Malaysian rider and, secondly, for producing the gelding in such immaculate condition.
After the agony of losing narrowly at his comeback run - including an unsuccessful protest in the Stewards' room - in a Kranji Stakes C Division 2 race over 1,200m on March 24, Clements could have put a more experienced jockey on to make sure he has all his ducks in a row this time around.
But he kept the faith with the young apprentice and, in the end, all things fell into place.
Shafrizal acquitted himself superbly, giving the four-year-old a peach of a ride despite drawing out the deepest in 10.
Racing three to four wide with no cover while Marine Treasure (Matthew Kellady) dictated terms at a good clip, Eagle Eye showed no signs of fatigue - despite covering the most ground from the 10 runners upon straightening.
Swinging the widest, the $34 chance straightaway pounced on Marine Treasure, who was starting to paddle away at the 300m after burning the candle at both ends.
Eagle Eye swooped but, like it was at his last start, he began to hang out under pressure.
That was when Shafrizal earned his riding fee and, most surely, the thanks from the horse's owner - the Kajorn Petch Racing No. 6 Stable.
He intelligently put the whip away, took corrective action twice and, like they say, the horse did the rest.
It was his 10th start and the chestnut won by two lengths. The winning time was just 0.55sec outside the course record set by Filibuster in 2017.
Shafrizal is enjoying his best season since moving across the Causeway to Clements' yard in September 2016. Eagle Eye was the 31-year-old rider's sixth win this year - and was by far the best horse he has ridden.
"This horse has improved a lot in training. He's been getting better and better," said Shafrizal. "The light weight (50kg) was also a major advantage. I was worried about the wide gate and the better Class 2 horses he was running against.
"But he was travelling very well throughout, and when I pushed him in the home straight, he quickened up really good."
Deputising for Clements who is in the US to attend the Ocala Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds that begins late today, assistant-trainer Michael White gave Shafrizal a massive plug at the post-race interviews.
"Shafrizal has been a great worker since he's been here," he said. "He's got a super attitude and he's given Eagle Eye a very good ride."
The note was, however, soured later in the Stewards' room when racing officialdom took exception to the way Shafrizal allowed Eagle Eye to shift in at the 750m mark, causing Raise No Doubt (Noh Senari) to check. He was handed a three-day suspension which will take effect afer this Friday's meeting.
As for Eagle Eye, he's now looking at the Four-Year-Old Series which kicks off in June.
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