Sun Ops set to shine again
Trainer Desmond Koh prays the speedy sprinter has overcome his bleeding problem
Bleeding sprinters can be a bit like rubber bands.
You need to put work into them to keep them taut and ready to go again, but without overstretching them or they may relapse.
Trainer Desmond Koh has been mindful of this delicate equilibrium ever since his promising speedball Sun Ops bled at his last start in August.
Once the mandatory three-month suspension was over, the Singaporean handler gradually brought the I Am Invincible five-year-old back to race fitness, complete with the timely enlistment of three-time Singapore champion jockey Manoel Nunes on his return to Kranji in November.
The road back to full-on racing for the two-time Kranji winner (1,000m and 1,100m) has required extra care, but it has all been worth it after Sun Ops passed the last two crucial tests with flying colours.
With Nunes aboard, he won his two barrier trials in style, with the second one on April 28 the more gratifying.
That was when Koh put the screws on. The speedy bay put the trial away with a four-length win and returned to the stable with no respiratory issue.
In other words, he has not snapped. The elasticity limit was not exceeded – and he is ready to uncoil in this Sunday’s Class 3 race over 1,000m on Polytrack.
“He’s a hard-going horse, and we put Nunes on as his partner as he’s got good hands,” said Koh.
“Nunes liked the horse from Day 1 and said he would like to ride him. He often works the horse.
“We’ve brought him back slowly after he bled. He’s done a good job to get back on track.
“As he’s a pure 1,000m horse, we had to put pressure on at some stage, but he’s responded very well so far. Fingers crossed, it’ll be the same this Sunday.”
Nunes certainly brought his silky skills when nursing the gelding to his two barrier trial wins.
“He had two nice trials. At the second one, we gave him a bit of a squeeze,” said the Brazilian ace.
“There’s always a worry when you do that on bleeders, but he responded very well and has come through that without any problem.”
Sunday will be a different kettle of fish, though, but Nunes is excited all the same to be climbing aboard the former Sydney-based two-time 900m winner (when known as Covert Ops) in a race for the first time.
“When I came back last year, Desmond asked me to work Sun Ops and I liked him right away,” he said.
“He’s a big horse, but he can run. They told me he bled the last time.
“I’ve been working him a lot. I also changed the bit as he likes to throw his head around.
“He could have run in November, but they decided to put him away again to give him more time.
“Then there was no 1,000m race for him either, and that’s why he hasn’t raced for so long.
“I think he can become a good Class 1 or Class 2 horse. If he doesn’t bleed this Sunday, he’ll run well.”
Sun Ops has drawn well with barrier No. 4, but having the likes of King Arthur, Happy Moment and Ararat Lady in the mix, Koh is a little bit more conservative than Nunes.
His priority is to see the Sun Bloodstock Racing Stable-owned galloper come through that first-up run without a hitch.
“He’s still a bit heavy, but he’s always been a game horse. Unfortunately he bled and that stopped him in his tracks,” he said.
“The race has a lot of depth on Sunday. We’ll need luck on our side.”
Doyle eyes sweep of the English classics
LONDON • James Doyle, emboldened by becoming the first jockey since 2015 to achieve the Guineas double, wants to go one better than legends Lester Piggott and Steve Cauthen in sweeping all five English classics in a season.
The eloquent 34-year-old’s talent has never been in doubt, as shown by his many Group 1 victories since his first in 2012.
However, in winning his first English classics at the weekend – Coroebus in the 2000 Guineas and Cachet in the 1000 Guineas – he has put himself on a different plane and allowed himself to dream of making history if he triumphs in the Epsom Oaks, Derby and St Leger.
Piggott won four of the five in 1970, missing out in the Oaks, while American Cauthen’s quartet came in 1985.
Doyle has come a long way since starting as a 16-year-old rider.
The Briton recalls “doing one of my French GCSE exams and I had to run around the corner to the racetrack afterwards”.
“It would be great to do the quintuple but you can’t be too greedy, can you?” he added.
“We’ll take this on board and whatever will be, will be.”
Doyle, a more measured but equally effective ambassador for the sport as the effervescent Frankie Dettori, is not one to turn a blind eye when offered advice – especially from his mother, former trainer Jacqueline.
“To have these big crowds back and to feel the racing atmosphere like it once was, is just incredible and it’s something that my mother has always said to me,” he said.
“I remember winning on Cityscape (his first Group 1 winner in 2012 in the Dubai Duty Free), she didn’t feel that I quite took in everything... that’s why on Saturday I just took myself off on my own on Coroebus when I pulled up just to have a moment to reflect on it.
“That was probably why I got quite emotional, actually.”
Doyle describes the weekend as a “complete blur and whirlwind” as he became only the fifth jockey in the modern era to complete the Guineas double – the first since Ryan Moore seven years ago.
Australian George Moore was the first back in 1967.
On his “incredible” weekend, he said: “I’ve ridden some big winners around the world, but I’ve never felt a feeling like that.”
He is unlikely to let the rare double go to his head, not just because of his relatively advanced age, but also because he has experienced the school of hard knocks in getting to where he is.
He admitted in 2019 that, in the years before linking up with Cityscape’s trainer Roger Charlton, he was “certainly very low”.
“It’s very funny how things work out. This game is a hard one in that sometimes it can be so ruthless and it can be tough on you,” he said.
“Other times, when the cards fall in the right direction, they fall in your favour as we’ve seen.” - AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE