The road to the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge for promising Japanese-bred Lim’s Samurai hits the ground running in the $60,000 Open Benchmark 67 race over 1200m on Sunday.
Lim’s Samurai is one of two Japanese-breds bought by champion owner Lim’s Stable’s racing manager Mick Dittman at a Japan Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association (JBBA) sale two years ago. The other one, a four-year-old by the name of Lim’s Onfire, has yet to race.
Both were placed with Laurie Laxon, and are at this point the only Lim’s horses under the nine-time Singapore champion trainer’s care. The Kiwi handler does not get the bulk of Mr Lim Siah Mong’s armada unlike Steven Burridge or Mark Walker, but he has prepared a few over the years, none more famous than 2008 Singapore Horse of the Year Top Spin.
No fooling around: Lim's Samurai (Danny Beasley) at his first win on April 1, 2016, picture Singapore Turf Club
Unfamiliar with Japanese breeding, Dittman sought the advice of an English bloodstock agent based there in choosing the two progeny by stallions the former Australian champion jockey had never heard of, Samurai Heart and On Fire.
Two years on, the expert’s words have proven spot-on, at least for one half for now. There is no better currency than track record: Lim’s Samurai has recorded three wins and two seconds in six starts, all partnered by Danny Beasley, and around $125,000 in prizemoney which have more than recouped the US$40,000 outlay Dittman forked out at the JBBA sale ring.
The only time Lim’s Samurai finished out of the placings was when he was tested at Group level in the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) last April.
He finished second-last to Debt Collector, but in all fairness, being a Northern Hemisphere-bred, he has the disadvantage of being six months younger than the Southern Hemisphere-breds who make up the majority of horses racing at Kranji.
Lim’s Samurai, whose last race on November 21 was in a Benchmark 67 race over the mile that he won, faces the same age conundrum in this year’s Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge which kicks off with the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1400m) on May 28, but assistant-trainer Shane Ellis said the gap is not as pronounced one year later, especially when he described the gelding as “tough”.
“He’s a nice horse and we always had a high opinion of him. The form around him was always very good,” said the Perth horseman.
“He’s a very tough horse, he’s a typical Japanese-bred in the sense that he works himself fit.
“He also looks like he has matured even more during the break. Mentally, he is a lot more switched on.
“He is fresh-up and trialled very well last Thursday. They ran smart time and Danny was very happy with his trial (eighth to The Nutcracker).”
However, Laxon’s right-hand man did express some concerns over only one item at his comeback race from a four-month spell – the handicap.
“There is only one worry. He will have to carry 59kgs first-up,” said Ellis.
“But he had to get a run as he’s heading towards the 4YO series. He’s pretty versatile, but I think he’s a stayer and will get over a journey.
“We don’t know much about his sire Samurai Heart, but obviously, all owners want to win a Derby, and we think he will get 2000m. We will just take it one race at a time, though.”
Lim’s Samurai is competing in a smallish field of nine runners on Sunday and has drawn barrier No 8, with the main dangers being fellow Lim’s stablemate Lim’s Knight, but trained by Mark Walker, and who is also a last-start winner, and the resuming Queen Roulette, whom trainer Leslie Khoo has set for the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge.