Athena finally gets off the mark

A brilliant ride from apprentice jockey Amirul Ismadi saw Cliff Brown’s filly Athena finally open her account at her 11th start on Friday night.

Remembered for her strong build as a two-year-old, the daughter of Nom Du Jeu was rated as one of the leading juveniles last year, even running third to Lim’s Racer in the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m).

After a long spell, she returned more trimmed up, but the winning post was still proving elusive for the Olympian Stable-owned galloper.

Athena (Amirul Ismadi) sheds her maiden status in Race 4 on Friday, picture Singapore Turf Club

Brown tipped her out for a couple of months, and somehow, she had returned to her strong physique. After two solid thirds, the writing was on the wall for the “big girl” with the big white face, who made no mistake in the $35,000 Maiden race over 1400m.

Well handled by Stephen Gray’s apprentice jockey, Athena settled in an ideal spot behind Northern Sun (Troy See) before coming around heels at the 400m to launch her assault upon straightening.

In one fell swoop, Athena ($28) struck the front with favourite Sahaba (Noh Senari) in hot pursuit, but there was no denying Brown’s filly her first win this time.

Athena gamely held off New Sensation (Syafiq Hazman) by half-a-length with Sahaba running on well to finish right on the girth of the runner-up another half-a-length away. The winning time was 1min 23.63secs for the 1400m on the Short Course.

“Good on her,” said Brown who was at a training double having won with another filly, debutant Filibuster two races earlier.

“She deserved to win. Michael Rodd was supposed to ride her but when she got 59kgs we decided to claim.

“The kid listened to the instructions and rode her very well.”

Amirul indeed confirmed he only executed Brown’s battle plan to the letter.

“It was a very simple plan from Mr Brown. He told me not to dig her up as she has early natural speed,” said the son of jockey-turned-trainer Ismadi Ismail.

“He told me to just put her where she was comfortable and be mindful of her as she has a high head carriage. When I saw Troy’s horse coming back, that’s when I decided to come around and she was too good in the end.”

Athena may have been at her maiden success but her previous seven starts, especially her third place in a Group 2 race went a long way towards the tidy amount of close to $120,000 already in her kitty.