Monday, 16 April 2012
: The much-anticipated two-horse clash between the two debut winners in Sunday's $65,000 Graduation race over 1200m, three-year-old Running Tall and four-year-old Bahen, lived up to its top billing with the end-result turning to the narrow advantage of the older horse.
Photo by Singapore Turf Club
Both gallopers are tried horses back in Australia and had come away with impressive results at their local debut (both in Polytrack races), but the hype had all along been stacked up on Running Tall
, a Group 2 winner in Melbourne and bought by the Lucky Stable to continue his racing career under champion trainer Patrick Shaw at Kranji.
The market odds also showed which way the opinion poll was swaying towards. Running Tall
, a three-year-old colt by Stratum
, was sent out at odds-on price of $9 while Bahen
was second-elect at $16.
The race certainly did not disappoint with a nail-biting finish between the two main protagonists, who must both be credited with laudable efforts the whole length of the Kranji straight.
Though Running Tall
(Barend Vorster) arguably had the rougher end of the stick trip-wise after coursing out four wide at some stage, he still loomed up as the one with the fullest head of steam at the top of the straight. Bahen (John Powell) was also in a handy spot but looked like he had been caught on the backfoot about half-a-length astern when they straightened up.
But Running Tall
could not pull away as expected, probably feeling the pinch after being trapped deep throughout, a script which went a long way in allowing Bahen to peg him back at the 200m.
Tightened for room for a few strides, Powell pulled the stick a couple of times before electing to ride the Tale Of The Cat gelding hands-and-heels as they levelled up close home to go and score by a neck in a thrilling finish.
Baertschiger's second runner No Respite
(Stephen Baster) joined the fray late to finish third another three parts of a length away. The winning time was 1min 12.04secs.
With Bahen giving away two kilos to Running Tall
, Baertschiger thought his protégé would have to settle for second at the 300m, but the young trainer found his voice back when the game gelding known as Mr Cool Cat back in Australia made light of the two-kilo gap by working home a shade better of the two.
“When Running Tall
went past him, I thought the weight got the better of him,” said Baertschiger.
“But he fought back and to beat an Australian Group winner like Running Tall
tells me he's got a big future here.
“I'll see how he pulls up and I may have a look at the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge later. He will definitely get the 1400m but we'll see how he goes before we try to test him over further.”
The Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge consists of three Legs which begins with the Group 2 Stewards' Cup (1400m) on June 3 before stepping up to the Group 1 Patron's Bowl (1600m) three weeks later and the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby (2000m) on July 15.
Powell, who combined for a double with Baertschiger aboard Grigora
in the opener, said his confidence grew after Bahen got away to a clean break.
“He gets a bit hot-headed and we were concerned about his barrier manners as he missed the jump at his debut,” said the Australian hoop.
“We were worried if he would jump or not, but he got out okay and I settled him in fourth spot.
“Turning for home, I thought we would run second as the other horse kicked ahead of us. I kept riding him hands and heels as he was still going forward and I felt he did not need the whip.
“In the end he showed plenty of guts to put his neck in front on the line.”
Shaw, who had used the race as a gauge for a possible tilt at the second Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, next Sunday's Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m), was not disappointed with Running Tall
's brave second.
“He did it the hard way as he had to cover extra ground. I'm very happy with his run,” said the South African handler.
“Maybe with the blinkers on, he could not see the other runner on his inside. We may need to have a look at that.
“I'll see how he pulls up and decide if he will go for next Sunday's race. Obviously it will also be a much stronger field than that.”