Turquoise King saved from the sticks

Trainer Mark Walker joked that if Turquoise King did not win at his first test over 1900m, he would send him to New Zealand to race over hurdles.

The Kiwi handler has chopped and changed the distances (1000m to 1700m) without much success for the Hong Kong-owned Stratum six-year-old at his 15 starts for him (he ran at his debut for Desmond Koh before being transferred).

But Walker had all along had a hunch Turquoise King would stay all day, and that 17th start tackling the 1900m of the $60,000 Class 4 race for the first time vindicated him – and saved him from booking a plane ticket!

Turquoise King (Manoel Nunes, on the inside) turns the tables back on Billy Britain (Michael Rodd), picture Singapore Turf Club

“There was a distance query, but I think it was the right race for him. If he couldn’t win that race, I would have had to send him to the hurdles race in New Zealand as there wouldn’t be any other option for him here,” said Walker.

“There were no world beaters in the field, but he was very gutsy in his win; he fought right to the line. If he can take this distance, it gives us a few more options with him.

“A big thank you to his owner Mr Tang (Hing Keung), who has been very patient with this horse.”

Turquoise King ($30) was indeed locked in a bit of a dogfight with Billy Britain (Michael Rodd) in the closing stages of the race, but his greater stamina arguably won the day.

He also owed a big part of his second wind inside the last furlong to Nunes’ expert handling. After enjoying a smooth passage in midfield, hugging the rails in the first half, Turquoise King suddenly popped off the fence to take closer order between runners halfway down the straight.

Upfront, runaway leader Cordoba (Anandan Subramaniam) was trying to pinch the race from a long way home, but Nunes had cleverly brought Turquoise King into a striking position as they swung for home for the final assault.

Billy Britain was spoiling for a fight as he loomed large on the outside with Rodd chasing a riding treble after Amazing Man and Splice earlier, even poking his head in front at the 200m, but under Nunes’ hard riding, Turquoise King clawed his way back, almost as if put off by the revolting idea of jumping over sticks at some New Zealand track.

Turquoise King maintained a head advantage all the way to the line while favourite Chairman Wind (Alan Munro) took no early part in the race, only showing up late to run third another gap of more than five lengths away. The winning time was 1min 58.02secs for the 1900m on the Polytrack.

“He drew a good barrier (1) tonight. I was following Platoon, and as I knew he wouldn’t stay, I didn’t want to get stuck behind him when he starts to weaken, and that’s why I moved off the fence early,” said Nunes.

“It worked out well as the other horses started to kick up on the inside, but my horse was relaxed and had plenty of cover.

“I was a bit worried about him going for the first time over this trip, but he gave me confidence at his gallop on Tuesday. He galloped very well.

“I had to get working on him from the 600m when Michael came next to me and that’s when both our horses went together and left the rest behind. He was very tough and showed plenty of heart.”