Well-timed victory for Pacific Bao Bei, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

Well-timed victory for Pacific Bao Bei

Known as War Horse in England, proven stayer grinds his way home like a workhorse

Kranji’s $50,000 Class 4 race over 2,000m on Feb 24 was quite a wide-open contest, but trainer Daniel Meagher was all along quietly confident his runner Pacific Bao Bei could snag it.

The former UK-based stayer does not win out of turn, having greeted the judge only once in nine starts in Singapore.

But the Sea The Stars five-year-old had often been thereabouts, as his record of three seconds and three thirds would attest to.

Such consistent record put him in good stead for a forward showing, but Meagher’s bullishness stemmed more from a study of his overseas records.

In a short English career, when he was known as War Horse and prepared by Marco Botti, Pacific Bao Bei registered his two wins over 2,000m at Goodwood and Sandown.

At his new Kranji base, save for his debut win over 1,400m, the only times he finished out of the placings was when the trips were 1,400m or shorter.

“I was very confident. He won his two races in UK over 2,000m,” said Meagher.

“It was the perfect time to get him over that trip for the first time here, and he got the job done.”

Racing in a one-out one-back position for Marc Lerner, the $29 shot had two of his main threats, $11 favourite Winning Stride (Ryan Curatolo) and Elite Jubilation (Bruno Queiroz, $31) within close quarters.

Elite Jubilation made play in front while Winning Stride enjoyed a ground-saving run in the box seat.

The order did not change much, until Elite Jubilation tried to give the slip from the 500m.

Green Star (Jaden Lloyd), who stalked the lead from the start, flinched first, making way for a stirring three-way battle.

Elite Jubilation fought back valiantly on the fence, but Winning Stride was gaining on him as he switched across his heels while Pacific Bao Bei loomed three wide.

It was anybody’s race. But, under Lerner’s hands-and-heels riding, Pacific Bao Bei finished a shade better to score by a head.

Winning Stride had again played second fiddle – for the sixth time in his last seven outings – while Elite Jubilation had to settle for third place, another ½-length away.

The winning time was a pedestrian 2min 03.71sec for the 2,000m on the short course.

It was not a win for the ages, but Lerner said that there was more to the “not-so-pretty” execution than met the eyes.

“I’m very happy with that win,” he said.

“This was my fourth ride on him, and I’ve really found the key to him. I was quite sure he’d run well today.

“He’s a horse who looks around when he hits the front too early. He can’t focus.

“I was happy to take a sit where he was, but he again lost his focus in the straight. So I rode him hands and heels instead, and he didn’t stop.

“He needed the confidence and I hope this win will step up his confidence.”

Meagher agreed with the French hoop that Pacific Bao Bei – his second winner for the Pacific Stable after Pacific Beauty on Feb 11 – was a thinker, but certainly not without an engine.

“He’s a handy horse who took some time to work out. He’s a funny horse,” said the Australian handler.

“He was also a bleeder when he came to us. But he’s still a bread-and-butter horse, and Marc rated him very well today.”

As to any designs on a loftier target over the same winning trip in eight months’ time, Meagher paused and said he would just keep such an option at the back of his mind for now.

“He was brought for the Gold Cup last year, but it didn’t work out,” said Meagher, who claimed the 2023 Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup (2,000m) with superstar Lim’s Kosciuszko.

“He just needs a couple of more wins to make it for this year’s.”

Slated in November towards the tailend of the Singapore racing calendar, the time-honoured handicap has long been considered as the season’s grand final.

Unfortunately, the 2024 edition comes with an irreversible finality this time round.

The 100th Grand Singapore Gold Cup will be the last-ever feature race staged in the 182 years of Singapore horse racing, taking place at its very last meeting on Oct 5.