Top Knight rules the Singapore Derby
Clements' champ avenges Kranji Mile defeat in $500,000 Singapore Derby
When the rain came and rendered the going yielding on Saturday, trainer Michael Clements became concerned.
He knew Top Knight, the flagbearer of his three Singapore Derby candidates, would not be affected by the second-widest barrier (No. 13), but he was unsure whether his Group 1 Singapore Guineas winner could handle the wet track.
But his Falcon Racing No. 7 Stable-owned seven-time winner proved that, rain or shine, he was just genuine, as he came from last to produce his customary strong finish to give his handler and jockey, Vlad Duric, their first Derby success.
"Up to today, the Derby was his target. We have achieved that, which is great," said Clements, whose other Group 1 winner was Alibi in the 2017 Patron's Bowl.
Reunited with the three-time Singapore champion jockey, after being ridden by reigning champion apprentice jockey Simon Kok at the last two starts which yielded a fast second to Aramaayo in the $1 million Group 1 Kranji Mile, Top Knight got up in the last few strides to beat $453 outsider Elite Incredible by a neck in the $500,000 feature over 1,800m.
It was the same result as the Guineas in May last year.
Hat-trick winner Minister held on third, two lengths away, after crossing in from the widest berth to lead in the time-honoured race which took place behind closed doors after it was rescheduled from April 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Clements' Group 2 Stewards' Cup winner Siam Blue Vanda finished a creditable fourth. His On Line ran 12th.
It was a deserving victory for Top Knight, who was second five times in his last six starts. They included the Group 3 Silver Bowl over 1,400m in February, Group 2 Stewards' Cup over 1,600m in March and the Kranji Mile three weeks ago.
It was a masterstroke by Clements to apply a gear that made his horse more focused.
"We had the winkers on for the horse today and he seemed to be travelling a lot better earlier on," said the Zimbabwe-born trainer.
"He was not getting so far back, so I was quite happy with the position he held in the running, and he turned for home with his usual strong run on the outside.
"At some stage, we thought we were never going to get there. But, fortunately, Top Knight is a genuine fighter and landed the race for us."
While the wide barrier was not Clements' concern, the wet track was.
"We weren't certain he would handle the wet track because he has never run on it before," he said. "Well, fortunately, Duric said he handled the track pretty well."
Clements is not ruling out November's $1 million Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup over 2,000m, although he feels the 1,800m could be his champion's maximum distance.
"The Gold Cup is a question mark but, anyway, we got some time to work things out," he said.