Nunes has Infantry's handicap weighing on his mind

Champion jockey Manoel Nunes said that back-from-injury Infantry has given no untoward signs that would make him a doubtful starter for the Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) next Sunday.

The son of Tavistock was all poised to tackle the second Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series after landing the first Leg, the Group 1 Panasonic Kranji Mile (1600m) on October 1, but a deep cut sustained during the run put paid to those plans.

With the knowledge such an injury would not heal in time, Infantry was a non-starter in the Group 1 Raffles Cup (1800m) on October 22.

Infantry (Manoel Nunes) takes out the Group 1 Panasonic Kranji Mile on October 1, picture Singapore Turf Club

Trainer Alwin Tan was, however, still confident he would be fit and ready for the grand final, the Singapore Gold Cup.

Nunes had all along applauded Tan’s decision to bypass the Raffles Cup, but even if the positive way Infantry has pulled through has vindicated that decision, lingering doubts still remained.

The Brazilian jockey, who also landed his second Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby (2000m) win with Infantry (after Spalato in 2014) in July, has three concerns: The trip, the interrupted training and the weight, with the biggest skew on the latter.

“Infantry didn’t give me the impression there was anything amiss with him when I galloped him this morning. He looks well, even if he’s a horse who doesn’t show much in trackwork and leaves everything for the race” said Nunes.

“We will probably give him another gallop on Saturday and one last one on Tuesday or Wednesday. Alwin has worked him like a stayer.

“But there are three things that are still at the back of my mind. First, he missed the last race (Raffles Cup) and that did upset his training. Even if he didn’t win the Raffles Cup (won by Gilt Complex), it would have still been an important part of the prep.

“Then of course, the distance of 2200m he is going over for the first time. Still, he’s a class horse, I respect him for what he has done between 1200m and 2000m, and I am quite confident he will run out the trip.

“The main worry is the handicap. He’s a tough horse and he can carry heavy weights, don’t get me wrong.

“It’s more the pull in weights that I’m talking about. I’m not sure how much he will carry, but on his rating of 109, he will definitely give weight to a lot of horses and that can be hard to overcome, especially when he is going over a distance like that for the first time.”

In the last 15 Singapore Gold Cups run at Kranji, only Smart Bet won with the steadier of 59kgs, with the other winners mostly carrying no weight on their backs.

“Staying is one thing and I am confident from the way he won the Derby, he will run out another furlong, but weight can stop a train,” said Nunes.

“We’ve seen so many champions before like War Affair or Better Than Ever, that I never knew as I wasn’t here then, but I heard about him, and both had big weights and could not win.

“I won’t compare Infantry with those two, but it’ll be hard for him to do better. If he draws well from four to six, it’ll be good as we want a run where he can save as much ground as possible. The 2200m is a long way to find a good spot, anyway, and I hope he can still tuck in somewhere with cover wherever he draws.

“The thing about Infantry is he is always underestimated, but he has always come out and won when not expected. Let’s hope he can do it again, get a good run and still beat the odds.”