Emirates Singapore Derby 2017 barrier draw reactions
The barrier draw for a 2000m race is not as crucial as for a sprint race, but there were still some wide grins and a few wry grimaces at the Chinatown Point foyer where the Post Position to the 22nd running of the $1.15 million Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby (2000m) was held on Wednesday.
Obviously, plucking out a low draw is still more of a plus than a negative even if some express misgivings about the first turn being a bit of a graveyard for those drawn on the inner circuit. You may get squashed and shuffled back, or you get pocketed.
But in general, trainers like Shane Baertschiger (Preditor drew marble one), and Laurie Laxon (Mr Scorsese (No 3) were happy with inside barriers, even if trainer Desmond Koh sounded quite neutral about drawing two for Guru-Guru.
Trainer Cliff Brown was a classic example of “hot and cold”. The Australian handler buried his face in his hands after Elite Excalibur came up with barrier No 14, a spot where he would be close enough for jockey Michael Rodd to sign an autograph for the Derby party revellers at the Marquee. A few minutes later, Brown was giving his son Felix a big hug after he pulled out the Emirates model aircraft with gate No 4 under its fuselage.
All in all, it was just a routine exercise that might well predetermine the shape of things to come at 4.50pm on Sunday, but not necessarily what will unfold at the end of the most thrilling 2000m journey on Singapore’s racing calendar.
“He’s a forward type of horse and will be up with the pace from barrier No 1,” said trainer Shane Baertschiger.
“I was hoping for barriers 3 or 4 and I got 1, which is more than I bargained for. He is probably four lengths behind these but he can stay all day.”
GURU-GURU and SUN HOPLITES – Barriers No 2, 8
“Even though he’s drawn two, Guru-Guru will sit somewhere in midfield. At least from that gate, he can get a ground-saving run on the fence,” said trainer Desmond Koh who won the Singapore Derby with Chase Me in 2012.
“Sun Hoplites has drawn a lucky number (8), so it’s all good. He has a lot of speed to go forward.
“He’s had only three runs for me, so I don’t really know him that well. But you need luck in this race and it starts right from the draw.”
“I’m really happy with both draws, especially Mr Scorsese as it was important he draws in,” said assistant-trainer Shane Ellis deputising for trainer Laurie Laxon.
“We want him to settle straight away and get cover, which he should be able to do from that barrier.
“90% of the other horses are going for the first time around two turns, and he will get an economical run from the barrier.
“As for Lim’s Samurai, seven is good, too. He can cut across and drop back. He will not be up close as last time and hopefully, he can get some cover.”
Mr Scorsese’s owner Phua Chian Kin was also delighted with his son Oscar’s lucky hand in drawing a number he had actually been pining for.
“Oscar wanted to draw three and he got three! Can’t complain about that!” said the former Singapore champion owner, who counts two Derbies to his name – Dreyfuss in 2004 and Clint in 2011.
MAGSTOCK and ELITE EXCALIBUR – Barriers No 4, 14
“He’s done good Felix!” said trainer Cliff Brown after the youngest of his two sons (elder one Harvey was also on hand) drew four for Magstock, a much better result than 14 for his leading contender Elite Excalibur.
“Magstock goes back anyway, but four is fine. I wish he could swop with Elite Excalibur, I wish we could do it (the draw) again, but at the end of the day, we just have to accept the cards we’re dealt with.
“But look, it’s not good, but it might be to his liking, who knows? He will settle midfield, and he may just get a nice run right through, we’ll see what happens on that day.”
Brown won the Singapore Derby with Clint in 2011 and he railed right through from barrier No 1 to score for John Powell.
While Aloysius Chew of Elite Performance Stable could have blamed himself for the standside alley, he was, however, still putting a positive spin on the dreadful draw.
“It’s a 2000m race. I think he can still get some cover,” said Mr Chew.
“He’s a grinder and he’s not going to the front anyway. He will go back a bit and hopefully settle in 5, 6 or 7.
“We’ll see how it goes, but 14 is not the end of the world. We’ll leave it in the good hands of Michael Rodd.”
JUSTICE FAIR – Barrier No 5
“Happy with that,” said man of few words, trainer Mohd Yusof after he pulled the number himself, which in itself is a rare appearance.
“Horse is good, we can only hope for the best.”
INFANTRY, NOVA STRIKE and ABSOLUTE MIRACLE – Barrier No 6, 12, 13
“Infantry was the luckiest of the three. His Thai owner is flying down from Bangkok tomorrow night and will be at the races on Sunday,” said trainer Alwin Tan.
“He won’t have to do too much to jump across and hopefully, he can tuck in somewhere with cover in third or fourth position.
“Manoel Nunes knows how to ride this horse and it’s good to have him back after his injury.
“Nova Strike has drawn off the track, he has more pace and he can cross and go forward, but I will have to work out a plan with his jockey (Derreck David).
“Absolute Miracle has drawn a bit wide. We have to race him more off the pace than usual.
“If he gets a good jump, he should be able to get a spot somewhere in midfield.”
David, who drew for Nova Strike himself, is usually optimism incarnate, but was erring on the side of caution this time around, while reassessing his draw.
“This is not where I was hoping I would be. I will have to study the form and work out a different plan with the trainer,” said the South African jockey.
“A lot will depend on the speed on his inside. The initial plan was to go forward, but now, I’ll see what happens.”
LIM’S CRUISER – Barrier No 9
“Nine is okay. It’s not as good as four, but it’s not as bad as 15,” said trainer Stephen Gray.
“It gives him a few options. I’ve drawn better in the past and I didn’t win the race.
“So, the barrier draw is just part of it. The horse is sound and well and that matters more.
“There are half a dozen of horses who can win this race. It might rain, who knows, and he’s won on a soft track before.”
EXCELLENCY and SONG TO THE MOON – Barrier No 10, 15
“Barrier No 10 will give Excellency a few more options while for Song To The Moon, all will depend on the pace of the race,” said trainer Ricardo Le Grange.
“Song To The Moon drops back, anyway, and if he gets a good genuine tempo, he will be right there at the finish, hopefully.”
While Le Grange was almost unfazed by the two two-digit gates, jockey Nooresh Juglall sounded even more bullish about Excellency’s barrier No 10.
“I like the draw. There is not much pace on my inside, most with pace like Alibi and Nova Strike have drawn wide,” said the Mauritian jockey who just won a Group 2 race in South Africa last Saturday.
“That should allow me to get a good position. I can then plan my way around better, but come raceday, much will also depend on the pace.”
ALIBI – Barrier No 11
“He’s drawn a bit wide, but he’s got to be in with a big chance anyway,” said trainer Michael Clements of the two-Leg winner who will rewrite history by becoming the first horse to complete the Triple Crown should he win the Derby.
“He will be looking to settle in with some cover, probably somewhere up behind the leaders.
“He is in the best form of his life. If he doesn’t come through, we are still proud of what he’s done.”
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