Shepherd's Hymn the new star
Hakim shines with two magical rides
Having just his third start at Kranji, Shepherd's Hymn stamped himself as a horse with a future. That, after a grand victory on a humid Saturday afternoon in the north of Singapore.
Indeed, he didn't just win that "Maiden". He made his rivals - and they were a pack of precocious two and three-year-olds - look like second-raters over the mile.
Ridden by Louis-Philippe Beuzelin, it was a slick show right from the get-go. Jumping cleanly, Beuzelin snagged him back to sit in a spot just off midfield.
He had three behind him at the 1,000m mark, but he was humming and his rider - knowing fully well that he had a revved-up engine beneath him - was in no hurry to work up a sweat.
Into the stretch and with half the field still in front of him, Shepherd's Hymn - like all youngsters - began to show off.
Taking the bit, he went after the pack, cutting them down one by one like a bully in the schoolyard. Beuzelin had no use for the persuader and it was with his rump unmarked that the $8 favourite romped home.
It was one of the most fluent wins we had witnessed at the weekend - and there were quite a few real good winners, like Celavi, Lim's Dream and My Everest just to name a few.
Beuzelin, on jumping off the Michael Clements-trained powerhouse, quickly saluted the performance. "He keeps progressing," he said. "And there's plenty of room for improvement.
Earlier in the opener, young apprentice Hakim Kamaruddin rewarded the early birds with a good win on the $17 favourite, Charming Diamond.
Showing maturity beyond his years, Hakim settled his mount in midfield as David's Star took off like some cheating husband trying to outrun a shotgun.
It was only when they were deep in the final stretch that he fashioned a run. Peeled to the outside, it turned out to be easier than expected.
Charming Diamond hit the front 150m out and cleared away to win with a leg in the air.
Trainer Shane Baertschiger was modest in victory. "On paper, it was the right race for him," he said. "And Hakim rode him well."
As we now know, it wasn't over for the 28-year-old rider.
He was legged up on Axel in Race 8 and, even now, there are many who are scratching their head and wondering aloud "how did he do it?"
How, indeed? Where did he come from?
If you must know, Axel came from near the rear. He was there - second to last - for most of the 1,400m trip.
Carrying loads of support and sent off as the $18 pick, his backers must have felt lower than a snake's belly when Axel was still in a hopeless position on straightening.
Then came the magic. The magic which makes this game look so attractive.
Hakim asked his mount for an effort. And Axel, a three-time winner, knew what it was all about. He came grinding up the straight like an honest brawler and, from being right out of it, he was suddenly shouted the winner.
It was brave and it was improbable. It was, theatre.