'Back to drawing board' for Macau Group winner

Trainer Mok Zhan Lun is under no illusions Macau Group 2 winning stayer Sandtop has his job cut out this Friday as he comes out for his third Kranji start in a sprint race.

No doubt, fellow stayer and Singapore Gold Cup non-starter Chairman successfully scored when dropped back in distance last Sunday, but Mok doubts his Macau import can follow suit.

Besides the six-furlong being way too sharp (as opposed to a mile), lack of racing mileage in Singapore is the other foremost reason.

Sandtop (Peter Ho) at one of his wins in Macau (photo courtesy of Racing And Sports).

The New Zealand-bred by Henrythenavigator came to Kranji with a glowing resume of two Group 2 wins at the Taipa Racecourse, the Autumn Trophy (1600m) in 2015 and the Spring Trophy (1500m) in 2016. He was ridden by current short-term licensed Macau jockey Peter Ho.

Sandtop was brought in with the Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) in mind, but after two prep runs, including an unplaced run in the Group 3 El Dorado Classic (2200m) three weeks before the Gold Cup, he did not make the cut as the Emergency Acceptor No 1 – just like Chairman who was No 2.

Mok actually knew he had a job on his hands the moment the six-year-old arrived at his yard around August. Three months is barely adequate time to get a horse ready for a race as demanding as the Gold Cup.

It was a bit of a gamble which in the end did not pay off, but Mok said there is always next year’s renewal, which will, however, be staged over 2000m for the first time in its rich history.

“The owner (Ho Pui Kim) said there weren’t many long-distance races in Macau. So, I suggested he brought his horse here to race in the Gold Cup,” said Mok.

“The only problem is the quarantine as there is no direct flight for horses. He had to spend three months in New Zealand!

“Factoring all that, I knew we couldn’t get him in time for a good prep, but we still gave it a try. He had two runs, but they were not ideal preparations.”

With Sandtop being trained towards the Gold Cup, Mok thought it would be a waste to leave a fully wound-up horse in the box until next year.

Friday’s $80,000 Racing For Rhinos 2017, a Kranji Stakes C Division 1 race over 1200m would never appeal under normal circumstances, but there were not many other options left for the 75-point rated gelding.

“I had to find a race for him. The 1200m is definitely too short for him, but he’s fit and well,” said Mok who is currently at the New Zealand Ready To Run sale for 2YOs in Karaka.

“As he was the topweight (59.5kgs), I am using a two-kilo claimer, Noh Senari, but he still faces a stiff task. He’s a horse for next year, and why not the Gold Cup even over 2000m.

“We will have to go back to the drawing board with him and let’s hope he will show his Macau form as we step him up over longer distance races.”

Mok, who is known to have an eye for young horses having picked out 2016 Karaka Million winner Xiong Feng (x Iffraaj and later imported as Dan The Man to Singapore) as a yearling, said he had yet to make any purchase at the 2YO sale.

“I am looking around. I will also go to the farms on Saturday and will be back for Sunday’s races,” he said.