Switch to sprint has Peters looking forward to New Year Cup

The shortened New Year Cup has trainer James Peters smiling, and with a three-pronged attack in the new-look race on Monday, the smiles could turn even wider.

The English hander fields three horses in the Group 3 race which is being dropped sharply from 1900m to 1200m for the first time, but still on Polytrack – Wimbledon, Spanish Bay and Skywalk.

The third-year trainer was not represented at last year’s renewal of the traditional season opener won by Guru-Guru. If not for a change to a sprinting feature, he said it would have been the same story in 2018.

Lightweight chance Skywalk (Daniel Moor) takes on stronger opposition in the New Year Cup, picture Singapore Turf Club

“I wouldn’t have had a runner if it was not dropped to 1200m. Now I’ve got three,” said Peters.

“I think it was a great idea to drop the distance, not just for me. It’s drawn a bigger field which is a lot more competitive and exciting for all concerned.”

Peters, who claimed only one “black type” race last year, the Group 3 Juvenile Championship (1400m) with Mr Hanks, could not fault his New Year Cup trio, but did give just a slight hint his favourite might be the Battle Paint four-year-old Skywalk.

“All three are in really good form at the moment. They all trialled well last week,” he said.

“Skywalk loves the Polytrack. He won well at his last start in a Kranji Stakes A race (over 1200m) and will face a step-up in class this time.

“He is meeting some nice horses but I hope that the light weight (50kgs) will give him a chance to match up to them.

“He’s had a smooth passage to this race. Everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done so very well.”

Peters is confident his two other higher-rated runners won’t be out of their depth in the New Year Cup (Wimbledon, 105 and Spanish Bay, 101 as compared with Skywalk on 89 points), even if they have struggled to find their way back to the winner’s enclosure.

Wimbledon has not scored since last January while Spanish Bay’s last win came in the Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes (1400m) in 2016, but Peters has not written them off as winning hopes on Monday.

“Wimbledon has always been a consistent horse and this is a nice race for him,” he said about the Snitzel entire, who just like Skywalk, races in the China Horse Club colours.

“He will carry the top weight of 58kgs but he’s a horse who always gives his all 100%. I put a line through his Korean race as he didn’t handle the sand there and I know he’s better than this.

“His first-up run in a Kranji Stakes A race (November 12) was encouraging. He gave weight to some up-and-comers and didn’t finish too far behind (1 ¾ lengths off the winner Super Fortune).

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs a bold race on Monday.”

Spanish Bay actually ran last in the same race, but he did have excuses on the day.

“He pulled up with a respiratory distress and I will ignore that run. At his previous run over 1000m, he ran a nice third to Nova Swiss,” said Peters of the Nadeem six-year-old.

“I’m really happy with his condition and he’s drawn the best among the three in barrier No 2. He will get into a good position without having to work too hard.

“He’s a classy sort who has won two Group races and I expect him to run well.”

Visiting Australian jockey Daniel Moor, who opened his Kranji account with Skywalk at his last win on December 3, returns for another crack while Wimbledon and Spanish Bay will be ridden by Alan Munro and Michael Rodd respectively.