US-bred galloper Royal Ruler bounced back to form with a hard-fought win upon returning on Polytrack on Sunday.
The Ricardo Le Grange-trained sprinter boasted seven wins before his run in the $100,000 Speed Baby 2011 Stakes, an Open Benchmark 97 race over 1100m, all recorded on the alternative surface.
The Roman Ruler five-year-old did not leave an indelible impression a his last two starts over turf, but he was clearly back in his element on Sunday after taking up a handy spot behind frontrunner Pioneer Seven (Alan Munro) before mowing him down where it mattered.
Royal Ruler (Barend Vorster, No 7) finishes a touch better than Pioneer Seven (Alan Munro) in the Open Benchmark 97 race, picture Singapore Turf Club
In a slogging drive to the wire, Royal Ruler ($28) eventually got the upperhand by a short head from Pioneer Seven with The General (Nooresh Juglall) third another length away. The winning time was 1min 4.42secs for the 1100m on the Polytrack.
Fourth another gap of 2 ½ lengths away was Raise No Doubt (Glen Boss), but arguably, it should have been a better finish if he had not been taken off the track at the 600m by favourite Olympic Anthem (Michael Rodd).
For some reason, Olympic Anthem suddenly veered out to the middle of the track, seemingly looking out of control. Unfortunately, Raise No Doubt was the only horse in the small eight-horse field who was collateral damage as he was then on Olympic Anthem’s outside at that moment.
Olympic Anthem was eventually dropped out of the race – the bit went through his mouth, it was revealed by Rodd later – while Raise No Doubt did his best to make up for the ground lost, but had to settle for fourth place.
But take nothing away from the winner, who enjoyed a trouble-free journey in a handy spot, and tapped into his tank with the right dose of acceleration to down a very combative Pioneer Seven.
“We tried him over more ground on turf, but it didn’t quite work out. He obviously prefers Polytrack,” said Le Grange.
“He was super fit coming into today’s race, and he didn’t disappoint. It’s nice to have another horse in the winner’s box for Mark and Emily Yong (Tmen Stable).”
Vorster, who has now partnered Royal Ruler at all his eight victories, was full of praise for the gallant warrior.
“He is honest over this trip. He had too much pressure throughout the race last time, and he never got a chance to get to them,” said the South African jockey.
“Today, we had The General sitting just off the early pace. When I produced him at the top of the straight, he gave a very good kick and we were able to catch Pioneer Seven who is also a very gutsy horse when he gets his own way in front.”
Royal Ruler has now taken his career earnings past the $420,000 mark for the Tmen Stable.