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Stewart ready for Red Ocean

Stewards’ Cup next up for Australian jockey after missing Gold in 3YO Sprint last week

In the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1,200m) last Saturday, jockey Ronnie Stewart was on the favourite Silent Is Gold, but lost.

One week later, the Australian steers one of the long shots in tomorrow’s $150,000 Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1,600m), Red Ocean, and hopes to win.

The lightweight rider is not unfamiliar with the conundrum.

Hotshots are usually the horses everybody wants to get on. But they can also attract undue attention in a race, which can prove costly.

Lesser fancies do not have the best chances, but they slip through the cracks and blend in, which can bring in the element of surprise.

“The pressure will be on the two favourites (Lim’s Kosciuszko and Tiger Roar), we have nothing to lose,” said Stewart.

“Even barrier No. 11 isn’t the worst draw. He’s a big horse, and if he had drawn an inside barrier and steps away half-slow, it wouldn’t help his chances.

“From an outside barrier, I can just give him a light squeeze. Hopefully, we can just get a free and easy run in transit and then have a last crack at them.”

Stewart knew he could leave such a script at home in the Sprint.

To him, the ride aboard a favourite like Silent Is Gold was always tantamount to exposing themselves as sitting targets.

“He’s better off when leading on the fence. When he is out in front, he makes his own luck and puts himself out of trouble,” he said.

“The race was mapping nicely when he jumped well and took the lead, until Jake’s (Bayliss) horse (Gold Ten Sixty-One) did his thing, and took over the lead.

“It made us leave the fence around the corner. He didn’t get an uninterrupted run, but he still ran a respectable race.”

On the way Silent Is Gold spaced his rivals, including Sprint winner Golden Monkey, at his previous start, fans may feel shortchanged with “respectable”. But Stewart said big winning margins do not always tell the full story.

“It doesn’t take much to turn the tables. At his last run, Golden Monkey looked awkward when they kicked up on the inside,” he said.

A Kranji stalwart from 2006 to 2011, Stewart rose to fame with multiple-Group 1 winners El Dorado and Jolie’s Shinju.

Back in Singapore after more than a decade, he did not quite hit the ground running until April 30, when he scored a hat-trick of wins.

He has breathed better since (nine winners up to now). Even if, except maybe for Silent Is Gold, he has not ridden anything that gives goosebumps yet.

He was given another reminder how long ago those epic rides were after they came up as yardsticks. 

“(Trainer) Shane (Baertschiger) rang me up and asked me if I could ride Red Ocean. He said he was a jump-and-go horse and to just do a Jolie’s Shinju on him,” said Stewart.

Jolie’s Shinju was a front-running Japanese mare whom Stewart led to a clean sweep of the 2009 Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge by breaking their rivals’ hearts with her high-cruising speed.

On his record, it is unlikely Red Ocean has the same engine. But Stewart is still keen to jump aboard.

“I galloped him twice, last week and this week on Wednesday. He’s a nice big strong horse, but controllable,” he said.

“He had a nice run at his last start, even if he was pestered a bit.”

Failing the parting of the seas for Red Ocean tomorrow, Stewart has a rematch to look forward to in the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1,400m) on July 9.

“I used to be a bit worried 1,400m was too far for Silent Is Gold. But, after his last run, I’m quite confident he will see it out,” he said.