Better Than Ever Simply The Best
Better Than Ever lived up to his name to become the first horse on the Malayan Racing Association circuit to establish a streak of 10 wins in a row without tasting defeat in the $200,000 Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy on Sunday.
In one fell swoop, the Laurie Laxon-trained superstar achieved two other milestones by chalking up the Kiwi mentor's 800th winner all-up and joining the exclusive millionaire club at Kranji.
Returning from a three-month spell for his first race as a four-year-old, the son of French Deputy, who started at his usual prohibitive odds of $6, was taking on an older and classier field in the 1400m event, but still treated them with the same contempt displayed at his previous nine successes when he was up against opposition of his age group, scoring by 3 ½ lengths from Waikato for a stable quinella, with Ghozi third another 1 ¼ lengths away.
Any concerns about Better Than Ever's fitness were quickly allayed when he began his galloping exercise with a smart jump from his barrier No 6 for regular partner Saimee Jumaat to be among the leading bunch . Cheyenne Dancer (Vlad Duric) kicked up on the inside to make him work a little before he was able to settle in the lead after 500m.
Better Than Ever turned for home looking like he was still in first gear while the chasing pack were flat as pancakes. Once Saimee slipped some rein, the issue was quickly put beyond doubt, and the course deejay could stick Tina Turner's "Simply The Best" record on the turntable.
The Jupiter Stable-owned champion just bounded away effortlessly, toying with handy sorts like Big Maverick (Danny Beasley), Powerful Ruler (Oscar Chavez) and Thundering Jet (Barend Vorster) to the point they were made to look second-rate.
The ever-reliable Waikato (Joao Moreira) and resuming Stewards' Cup winner Ghozi (Sean Cormack) were the only ones to make some ground in the last 100m, running on from the rear to finish second and third respectively.
“Today's race has actually achieved three milestones for me,” said Laxon.
“The obvious ones are Better Than Ever's record and him winning more than a million in stakes.
“Then, not many people knew that, but I've now saddled my 800th winner here at Kranji.
“He was up against some classy sorts today but he beat them like he normally does. I own Waikato but he had him shot to bits!
“He's a very good athlete and went into the race very fit even if he was back from a spell. He had them covered for a long way.
“I will now be looking at the weight-for-age mile races for him. The Kranji Mile (1600m on Oct 3) and the Raffles Cup (1800m on Oct 24) will suit him nicely, but not the handicap race (Singapore Gold Cup).”
Saimee said Better Than Ever was the best horse he has ridden and was confident the gelding would keep his unbeaten run going.
He added that he wasn't sure how far the gelding can go but said there was a lot more fun in store with him.
“I don't want to sound too cocky, but I did think he would just win,” said Saimee.
“He is the best horse that I have ridden or been associated with. He just does things so easily.
“The sky is certainly the limit with him. You have to try and keep pace with him as he goes about his business.”
For the first time Saimee had to give Better Than Ever a “slap” with the whip just to remind the gelding he was in a race.
“I just showed him the stick just to see what was there,” said Saimee. “It was the first time that he was racing against this class of horse.
“You do Have to respect the other horses as they do have the form on the board and these races are now going to get tougher.
“But this horse is all quality and he will get some improvement out of the win.”
Owner Tang Weng Fei of Jupiter Stable was on hand to witness his pride and joy rewrite the history books.
“I have to thank Laurie and (assistant-trainer) Shane (Ellis) for having maintained him at his peak,” said the oil businessman.
“Ninetyfive Emperor won 10 races in a row but he ran second at debut to Grand Canyon. Better Than Ever has done the same but he has never lost a race.
“Let's hope he can go and keep his unbeaten run. We won't need any countback next time.”
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The Mark Walker-trained Distinctive Darci had to tough it out in the straight but was eventually able to make it back-to-back wins in the $75,000 New Zealand Racing Board Trophy, a Novice race over 1100m on Sunday.