Meagher laps up fleeting time at the top with Elise

The honour of firing the first 2018 salvo went to trainer Daniel Meagher after he took out the season opener, the $45,000 Welcome 2018 Stakes (1200m) with the well-backed Elise, on Monday.

The Australian trainer, who enjoyed a successful 2017 campaign at his first full season with an 11th placed finish on 30 winners, said the decision to ditch the December break had paid off.

Ridden by Benny Woodworth, Elise who was sent off as the $11 favourite, duly rewarded his backers with a hard-fought three-quarter length win over race-leader Perfect Commando (Chan Wei Sheng). The five-year-old by Faltaat looked like he was coasting when he drew upsides with Perfect Commando halfway up the straight, but had to really flex his muscles inside the last 200m to finally gain the advantage.

Elise (Benny Woodworth) bounces back to his best to score in the opener on New Year's Day, picture Singapore Turf Club

Longshot and Emergency Acceptor Patroclus (Ng Choon Kiat) ran a surprising third another 1 ½ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 11.39secs for the 1200m on the Long Course.

The race was the first Class 4 Non Premier race (ratings between 44 and 61) ever staged at Kranji. It is part of the new racing initiatives being launched this year.

“It’s a fantastic start – it’d be the only time I would be the leading trainer!” Meagher joked.

“But I’m really happy with this start as we took no holidays and just kept working. It’s also good for Benny and it’s good for the staff. I’m rapt for everyone.

“This horse has been struggling to win in Class 4 and for him to win today in this new ratings system goes to show how successful it is. It gives a horse like him a chance.

“I thought he overraced a little in the early stages today but they were walking as well. Benny was able to relax him and he won a nice race in the end.”

Woodworth is one of only two local jockeys (A’Isisuhairi Kasim being the other one) to be licensed a full year in 2018, admittedly helped by a prolific 2017 season with two Group wins with Forever Young.

But that did not mean the Malaysian had been sleeping on his laurels during the break. He rode in Macau in December bringing home one winner.

“I won one race for Famous Artist’s owner in Macau. It was a good way to keep myself fit,” said Woodworth.

“This horse pulled hard and that’s why I think he did not really quicken when I asked him in the straight. He was probably fresh as well.

“But it’s a nice way to begin the new year for myself and for Dan.”

Elise was bringing up his fifth win from 31 starts for stakes earnings in excess of $200,000 for his owner Chua Poh Seng, whose black and red silks shone with Secret Win in the Group 3 El Dorado Classic (2200m) last year.