Best To the Lion first, and then Saas Fee

The last time handy miler Best Tothelign ran in a 1200m race was 20 months ago, and he actually won. This Sunday, he is one of 10 runners facing the starter in Singapore’s premier sprint race, the $800,000 Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m).

Trainer Shane Baertschiger is well aware the Align six-year-old is not really a sprinter - especially over pure speed races - these days, but the Lion City Cup, the third Leg of the Singapore Sprint Series, was the best option for a comeback race towards other targets.

“He’s not a sprinter, that’s not his go,” he said of the 97-rated gelding.

“But there was no other race for him. His main goal is the Saas Fee Stakes in a month’s time.

“It’s a special conditions race and the 1400m is much better for him, but he needed a first-up run before he gets there.

“When I looked through the programme, the Lion City Cup was the only race that suited him first-up.”

Best Tothelign makes his return to racing in the Lion City Cup on Sunday, picture Singapore Turf Club

The $200,000 Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes (1400m) will be run on May 14 on Singapore Guineas Day.

After cutting his teeth in sprint races, principally over 1200m and on Polytrack (which included a three-in-a-row) at his first season (2014) as a three-year-old/four-year-old, Best Tothelign has gone on to prove his versatility with wins over longer trips, and over turf as well.

The cherry on the top was his dead-heat with Order Of The Sun in the Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes (1700m) in 2015, a trend that Baertschiger has since maintained for the nine-time winner raced by the MA Racing Stable.

Best Tothelign has not raced since a disappointing seventh place in last year’s renewal of the Colonial Chief Stakes (won by Daniel) in December, but if Baertschiger was to look for a silver lining, he does have one.

“He’s got a very good fresh record. Four starts for two wins and two seconds,” he said.

“He’s had a couple of good barrier trials and he will be presented in good shape on Sunday.”

Best Tothelign will be ridden by Baertschiger’s stable jockey John Powell and has drawn out in barrier No 9, which will be dropped to No 8 with the withdrawal of the Alwin Tan-trained Cavallo.

Baertschiger is no stranger to the Lion City Cup given his father Don won Singapore’s richest sprint race with Capablanca (Noel Callow) in 2008. He was then the assistant-trainer.

With close to $560,000 in stakes earnings, Best Tothelign will see his bank bust the million mark should he win on Sunday.