Rising star Countofmontecristo kept his unblemished record intact after he brought up his fifth win from as many starts in the $350,000 Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) on Friday.
The son of little-known sire Echoes Of Heaven (x Encosta De Lago) incidentally picked up a bonus of $50,000 for winning two Legs of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge as he already had in his keeping the first Leg, the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m), which was captured at his last start.
There is now only the third Leg, the Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) on May 14 left to bag to not only keep his unbeaten streak going, but also to emulate the clean sweep achieved by another star three-year-old raced by his owner Joe Singh, Gingerbread Man in 2011.
Countofmontecristo (Glen Boss, No 2) asserts his superiority in the Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic on Friday, picture Singapore Turf Club
Should Countofmontecristo make it a six-in-a-row in the Guineas, the $50,000 bonus will also treble, but trainer Michael Clements was already over the moon with what the game galloper has already accomplished, especially as he thought Friday’s Leg would be his toughest test by far.
“I thought today would be his biggest test, but this horse has answered in the best possible way every time we step him up,” said Clements.
“We knew he was looking for more ground, but it was his first time going from six furlongs to seven furlongs. It’s always a query, even if pedigree-wise, we always thought he would go further.
“It’s onwards and upwards to the Guineas now.”
Clements said he was happy where Countofmontecristo ($16) settled in the running – one-out, one-back, but was a little surprised to see him suddenly put two lengths on one of his rivals Sir Isaac (Michael Rodd) shortly after cornering – and with a Long Course stretching far ahead.
Indeed, after race-leader Splinter (Barend Vorster) and Macarthur (Manoel Nunes) wore each other out following a bit of a speed battle upfront, Sir Isaac drew first blood as he ducked in to the inside the moment a weakening Splinter rolled out.
But Boss would not get one of his main dangers slip away, promptly popping the question to Countofmontecristo, who responded with his trademark acceleration, as he raced past Sir Isaac with consummate ease.
From the stands, the move may have looked impressive, but it could also be a tad early, especially as Could Be Pearls (Shafiq Rizuan) was making a beeline for the winning post along the fence.
But Countofmontecristo just does not shirk a fight, brilliantly knuckling down to the task to go and reach the post with half-a-length to spare from Could Be Pearls.
Classic triumph: (from left) trainer Michael Clements, jockey Glen Boss and owner Joe Singh, picture Singapore Turf Club
After bringing up the rear, favourite Jupiter Gold (Alan Munro) started improving from the 800m, circling the field with a sweeping run which many thought would again leave his rivals reeling, but he somehow bottomed out inside the last 150m to eventually settle for third place another 1 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 22.19secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.
He may not have threatened the winner, but the run of the race had to go to Deimos (Nooresh Juglall), one of trainer Cliff Brown’s five-strong team (others are Sir Isaac, Could Be Pearls, Mr Fatkid and Draco) runners, who unleashed a blinding turn of foot along the rails to finish fifth, only a short head away from the fourth horse, stablemate Sir Isaac.
It was certainly a late dash that will put him in good stead for the final Leg on May 14, a case which could be made for most of the other runners, including the winner.
Boss, who has ridden Countofmontecristo to all his wins bar the first one when he was suspended (Mohd Zaki filled in for him), for one could not wait for the last Leg to come around, even if he felt there were still some rough edges that could use some polishing until then.
“Like we saw in the enclosure, he’s still a bit juvenile in his head, like he still doesn’t know how to do the right thing at times,” said the top Australian jockey.
“But every time he has come out for me, he has become more and more of a proper horse. He is a lot more relaxed now, like he has learned to relax his muscles a lot better.
“Today, he was very relaxed when we got a good spot with cover, but when I saw Sir Isaac kick up on our inside at the top of the straight, I told myself we could not afford to let a horse like Sir Isaac take two lengths on us as he would be hard to peg back.
“That was why I pressed the button a bit early. And I thought we got there a bit too soon.
“Another horse (Could Be Pearls) came near him in the end, but I knew I had him covered. He wouldn’t have let him through.
“My horse has a very good acceleration, but we’ve learned a lot from him today.”
Singh was his composed self at the prize presentation ceremony, but one could sense the pride in his voice as the magnitude of being one win away from lightning to strike twice, dawned on him.
“I’ve got a bloodstock agent in New Zealand who buys my horses, Regan Donnison, and he’s the one who chose Countofmontecristo for me,” said Singh.
“The horse was well trained by Michael and was well ridden by Boss. It was a great team effort.
“I hope he can do what Gingerbread Man did in 2011.”
Clements certainly will not forget that Good Friday as not only he claimed the feature of the day, but he also took the training honours with a treble. He won earlier with Leon and Spur Me On, taking his score to 15 winners and gaining two ranks over James Peters and Laurie Laxon to sit in eighth spot.
“We’ve had a pretty good start to the year. Even when the horses didn’t win, they were only two or three lengths behind,” said Clements, the veteran among the expatriate trainers at Kranji, having relocated from Zimbabwe in 1998.
“Things have really fallen into place this year.”
With that fifth win, Countofmontecristo has now amassed prizemoney close to the $440,000 mark for Singh.