Wednesday, 20 June 2012
: It is now stuff of racing lore that Ato's undercarriage would have been made lighter if he had not won the Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint last May.
Photo by Singapore Turf Club
Trainer Patrick Shaw had been mulling for a while over a gelding operation for the smart four-year-old colt by Royal Academy
in a bid to get the best out of him, but the smashing win in the $1 million sprint race over 1200m could not have been timed to better perfection.
The popular victory at the expense of world-class sprinters like Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Krypton Factor
and Secret Asset
not only spared Ato the dreaded snip, but also brought him back in the hunt for more racing glory sooner than envisaged.
Now that his main assets have been preserved, the Newbury Racing Stable-owned galloper's value as a stallion prospect could be spiked further with a few more Black Type wins.
The second Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge, this Sunday's $500,000 Group 1 Patron's Bowl (1600m) over the mile would probably not have sprung to mind as a likely target at first glance. But a horse turns four only once, and the longer trip is not really a poser as he did race over 1600m once and at Group level for good measure, when third in the Group 1 Singapore Guineas last year – to Gingerbread Man
whom he will meet again on Sunday.
After weighing up all these factors, Shaw decided the Patron's Bowl would be the ideal comeback race for the $1.16 million earner.
“I've always planned to geld him, but obviously after he won the KrisFlyer, that was not an option anymore,” said Shaw.
“As he's also pulled up very well, I could then bring him back earlier - and the Patron's Bowl was one of the races that suddenly fitted in very well in his programme.
“Since his good third in the Guineas last year, I've actually always wanted to try him over the mile again, but I never really got the chance.
“I remember he moved up very well on that day, but just got found out by the distance in the last bit.
“Now that he's one year older, I think he should be able to get that extra distance a little better.”
Shaw is however under no illusions Ato
still faces a stiff task against his 2011 Guineas nemesis and eventual 3YO Triple Crown winner, the Bruce Marsh-trained Gingerbread Man, who has already bagged the first Leg of the 4YO Challenge, the Group 2 Stewards' Cup on June 3.
“Gingerbread Man is obviously the horse to beat. He's a quality horse and the distance will suit him down to the ground,” said the South African handler.
“I also have plenty of respect for Nandowra. He's a real fighter and cannot be underestimated.
“But my horse is fit and well. I'm very happy with his condition after the one-month break.
“He won a trial last Thursday and that would have brought him on nicely. He's not a massive horse – 460kg thereabouts – and therefore doesn't need a lot of work.
“Today, he did pacework and canter and I was also very pleased with that work. I think he'll be a great chance in the Patron's Bowl.”
Shaw has however ruled out a progression to the next level in the 4YO Challenge – the third Leg which is the 2000m trip of the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby on July 15.
“No, that is definitely not his go. I'm not going to stretch him to that distance,” he said.
In 20 starts, Ato has raced mainly (14 runs) over 1200m, over which he counts six wins, which besides the KrisFlyer also includes the Group 3 Woodlands Handicap, while his five tries over 1400m have yielded one win.
Long regarded as Shaw's second KrisFlyer choice after star stablemate Rocket Man
in the run-up to the race, Ato was suddenly elevated to Shaw's only bullet after Rocket Man was sensationally scratched five days before the race due to a ligament strain to his near foreleg – and duly delivered.
Since that setback, Rocket Man has been given all the time in the world to recuperate during a well-deserved break away from the racetrack.
“He's very well, but the longer he rests, the better,” said Shaw of Singapore's most famous equine star.
“I will give him about four months' break and probably bring him back around September-October. We will aim him at Hong Kong in December and probably Dubai next year.”