Shaw Big Guns In Fine Trial Form
Trainer Patrick Shaw was a happy man at Tuesday's barrier trials at Kranji when several of his big guns as well as stable star Rocket Man came out firing on all cylinders at their final hit-outs.
The South African gang-tackles Sunday's $1.35 million Group 1 Longines Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) with the trio of Paulinho, Lizarre and Maurice Utrillo who were all put through their last paces towards the premier handicap event in the same barrier trial (No 6), finishing in that order in first, second and fourth respectively.
In an earlier trial, Shaw saw his Group 2 EW Barker Trophy contender Ato round up his preparation towards Friday night's handicap race over 1400m in the best possible way with a solid 3 ¾ -length win ahead of Goal Keeper.
International ace sprinter Rocket Man, who makes his domestic comeback in a Kranji Stakes A Polytrack race over 1200m on Friday a month after his unsuccessful Japan trip in the Sprinters Stakes (fourth), gave yet another galloping lesson in his heat, strolling in by 4 ½ lengths from stablemate Funca in 1min 0.12secs.
For the record, Shaw went on to make it four wins with Brunei Royal in the last trial of the morning's session.
But from a Gold Cup perspective, it was trial No 6 in particular which had Shaw grinning from ear to ear. Paulinho and Lizarre ran one-two, with only Steven Burridge's Benji's Empire slotting himself in-between in third to beat Shaw's third Gold Cup runner Maurice Utrillo in fourth and deny Shaw the trifecta.
Lizarre, a narrow winner of the Mandai Classic Stakes (2200m) on October 30, was beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Paulinho, but Shaw was taking nothing away from the classy South African stayer, who is widely regarded to have the wood on his two stablemates.
“They went quite fast in front. He wound up late and started to get going only after the winning post but it was a great prep run before the Gold Cup,” said Shaw whose haul of 67 wins puts him on top in the Singapore trainer's premiership title fight, which he has never won before.
“He won narrowly in the Gold Cup trial (Mandai Classic Stakes) but I can't use that race as a guide as the pace was too slow. They were going almost two seconds slower in the mid-sectionals.”
“I couldn't be happier with the other two runs (Paulinho and Maurice Utrillo) as well and hopefully, they're all in the running on Sunday.”
On their ratings (88 to 89), the threesome will carry the luxury load of 50kg, in receipt of as much as eight kilos from topweight Always Certain, giving Shaw a leading hand to notch a second Gold Cup win with another lightweight, five years after Mr Line scored with Jeff Lloyd up in 2006.
Shaw was also delighted with the way the Newbury Racing Stable's headline act Ato has wound up his preparation.
“He pulled himself very well into the barrier trial and the winkers seemed to have switched him on a lot,” said Shaw of the South African-bred by Royal Academy, who will be his sole runner in the EW Barker Trophy, a race he won only once with Blizz Bless in 2002 when the race, formerly known as the Silver Cup, was renamed the EW Barker Trophy for the first time.
“It's a strong field but my horse has done nothing wrong and he gets a nice barrier, he should be in with a strong chance.”
One horse who will be at ultra-short odds to extend Shaw's lead in the premiership is of course Rocket Man.
After having no luck in the running in the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) at Nakayama on October 2 to still run out of his skin to run fourth to Japanese filly Curren Chan, Rocket Man gave every indication he was ready to resume his winning march to victory No 18 as the perfect prelude to his forthcoming Hong Kong assignment.
The Viscount six-year-old will attempt to go one head better in the Group 1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) on December 11 after falling agonisingly short to J J The Jet Plane in last year's edition.
“It's been a bit of an awkward preparation – to come back from Japan quarantine and then race in Hong Kong within such a short lapse,” said Shaw of his pride and joy.
“We've had a few sleepless nights, but touch wood, it's worked out all right so far. He needed today's trial as we didn't want him to go into Friday's race underdone, but neither did we want him to go over the top.
“He's booked to leave on December 3. It's always been the plan for him to go later compared to last year, as the limited time we had this year would have affected him.”
Rocket Man landed his first overseas win when successful in a Hong Kong Sprint lead-up race, the Group 2 Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) deadheating with John Moore's One World last November, three weeks prior to the Sprint race itself.
The Laurie Laxon duo of Huka Falls and Ruapehu underlined their sparkling forms when they shone in the last two barrier trials on Tuesday, with their trainer hopeful the wins will translate into the ones that matter this weekend.