Close go as Only Win matters

US-bred Only Win came with a late lunge to open his account at his seventh outing on Monday.

The Tribal Rule four-year-old showed some ability with a second place in five previous runs for trainer David Kok. After moving to Michael Clements’ yard last October, he kept up the same form with a closing third under Olivier Placais in a Restricted Maiden race over 1200m.

With Placais staying onboard, Only Win was sent at lukewarm odds of $44 in the $60,000 Happiness 2018 Stakes, a Class 4 Premier Division 2 race over 1200m, with most of the market talk skewed towards even-money favourite Mr Clint (Daniel Moor), Magic Wand (Barend Vorster) and Ladrone (Matthew Kellady).

Only Win (Olivier Placais, No 12) edges out Mr Clint by a nose (Daniel Moor) on the line, picture Singapore Turf Club

Those three indeed were the main protagonists inside the last two furlongs, with Magic Wand and Mr Clint looking the more likely to come up trumps when they came collaring race-leader Ladrone at the 200m.

But as the trio fought for supremacy, the final blow was in the end delivered right on the outside by Only Win, who under Placais’ unmistakable whipping style, responded with a late surge to nut Mr Clint out right on the peg.

Debut winner Magic Wand (for Bruce Marsh), who was having his second start for trainer Ricardo Le Grange, was certainly not disgraced with a third place another neck away with Ladrone fourth another 1 ¾ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 10.78secs for the 1200m on the Long Course.

Clements was all smiles as he walked down a route he has plied 54 times for a sixth-placed finish last year.

“It’s great to keep the good run going,” said the Zimbabwean-born handler who certainly enjoyed one of his best seasons in 2017.

“It was not a very strong race and we thought there was only the favourite (Mr Clint) to beat. He stripped fitter after his first run for us.

“The distance was not ideal either as I think he’s more of a 1400m horse and even further, but he liked the sting out of the track.

“He ran well on a yielding track before and he’s done well again today.”

Placais said Only Win did not switch on right away when he called upon him, but a little bit of company spurred him to victory in the end.

“He ran very well at his last start and I gave him a small chance. In the first 200m of the straight, he was in a good spot but was not quickening the way I thought he would,” said the French rider.

“It’s only after Daniel’s horse (Mr Clint) came up to him that he gave a nice kick. It’s a horse who will improve further.

“Big thank you to Mike and the owners for putting me on. I don’t ride very often for Mike and it’s great to combine for a win with him and at the first day of the year.”

Placais did ride one winner for Clements once and it dates as far back as March 25, 2011 on a horse named Classic Express.