South African trainer Patrick Shaw not only captured his second Singapore Gold Cup with Argentinian-bred stayer Quechua on Sunday, but for good measure, also his second quinella in the time-honoured classic.
After Mr Line (Jeff Lloyd) and War Horn ran 1-2 in the 2200m handicap showpiece in 2006, Shaw made several attempts at another golden strike, but none of his runners could quite pass muster until Quechua finally ended the long wait with Emperor’s Banquet running on to complete the stable queue-up.
It was not just Shaw who was saddling the forecast in the Gold Cup as the Yongs of the Avengers/Tmen Stable race both Quechua and Emperor’s Banquet, not to mention they were also the connections behind Mr Line under the Quartet Stable.
Needless to say, the celebrations from the Tmen Stable and their entourage at the winner’s circle reached fever pitch as they raucously led in Quechua and jockey Corey Brown for a Gold Cup triumph that incidentally capped a memorable day for Shaw, who had earlier landed three winners courtesy of In Fact, Bale Star and Davide.
The explosion of joy must have also come as an outlet for relief as the Shaw camp had been gripped with self-doubt after Quechua and their third runner Lizarre both drew wide (15 and 16 respectively) on Wednesday, even if Emperor’s Banquet fared a lot better with marble one.
Brown remained adamant, though, that Quechua is an on-pace runner and the best way to ride him was still at the head of affairs and not to be snagged back to the rear and ride him for luck.
And that is exactly how the Melbourne Cup-winning jockey quickly bounced the son of Pure Prize before gradually veering across to the inside to sit outside Goodman (Craig Newitt).
Daring tactics maybe to some but Brown knew what he had underneath for having already been aboard at his last two wins, including the traditional Gold Cup trial, the El Dorado Classic (2200m) three weeks ago. The fact he also knows Goodman inside out was another factor that played into his hands as he could then rate the tempo even better.
Behind among the 16-horse pack, favourite and Triple Crown chaser War Affair (Danny Beasley) was as expected caught three wide in midfield, but had some cover with Stepitup (David Flores) ahead of him.
Goodman maintained a steady tempo to the race until the home turn where Quechua ranged upsides to apply some pressure while War Affair had switched out to circle the field to swing around the home turn the widest runner, almost seven abreast.
Upfront, Brown was not asking any questions what was happening in his wake, only keen to pop the question to his mount and let down the handbrakes, fully aware of Quechua’s superior stamina. And how the latter answered with a devastating turn of foot that saw him scoot clear by two lengths on the chasing pack.
War Affair’s trademark blinding acceleration was conspicuously missing this time as he failed to muster a kick inside the last furlong, plodding on to still run a meritorious fifth. Upfront, Quechua outstayed his rivals to go and stamp himself as Singapore’s best stayer while it was left to Emperor’s Banquet (Nooresh Juglall) to make ground late to run second 1 ½ lengths away.
Outsider Cheetah On Fire (Lisa Allpress) plugged on solidly to run third another ¾ length away while last year’s winner Tropaios (Tommy Berry) steamed home late to run fourth another neck away. The winning time was 2min 15.07secs.
“This was the big one we've long planned for this horse. We bought him especially for the Gold Cup. And this is my second Gold Cup and the second time I’ve finished first and second. When I do a job, I do it well,” joked Shaw who recently underwent a minor surgery.
“We spoke to Corey after he drew wide and the plan was to jump well and go forward and that’s exactly how it panned out.
“As I said before, he’s the true stayer in the race and Corey rode him a treat. Winning the Gold Cup eight years ago with Mr Line and War Horn second was special but this is also special, especially as I’ve done it again for the Yong family who have been wonderful supporters of mine for a long time. I will give him a break now and we’ll look at races like the SIA Cup and the Derby for him next year.”
The $3 million Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup in May and the $1.15 million Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby in July are Singapore's two most coveted races over 2000m.
Brown, a jockey who has won most of his country’s biggest races, was savouring the grandeur of finally annexing one of the Grand Slams in his new land of adoption.
“I’ve won a few Group 2 and Group 3 races here but it’s good to get a Group 1 win off my shoulders and winning the biggest domestic race here is a big thrill for sure,” said the Australian jockey.
“This horse gave me such a super feeling at his first two wins and with no weight on his back, I had to pick him over Goodman, even if Goodman has also been a special horse to me. At the end of the day, it was a business decision and I’m glad I pulled the right rein. The wide draw was a concern and I was very disappointed Pat asked me to pick his gate as I’ve always been bad at that and true to form I got 15. But we went in with a plan to still go forward. He jumped out quickly and I was very happy when I was able to bring him back under me outside Goodman. From that point on, I just let him track the leader and in the home straight, he gave a very good acceleration. This horse has the Derby written all over him next year.”
With that Gold Cup win, Quechua has now seen his earnings reach just $20,000 off the $900,000 mark, an amazing feat considering he was at only his third win from six starts.
Extracts from Signapore Turf Club