After taking out the first Leg, the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1400m), with his trademark fighting spirit three weeks ago, the big-hearted son of Darci Brahma had to dig even deeper into his seemingly bottomless courage when he hit the front for jockey Glen Boss halfway up the Long Course, with a gaggle of swoopers descending thick and fast.
But Alibi thrives under pressure. Like he has proven on countless occasions, it is when he comes under siege that he conjures up that extra something up his sleeve - to still snag the thicker end of the prizemoney.
Lim’s Cruiser (Danny Beasley) and Infantry (Nooresh Juglall) don’t shirk a good solid dogfight either. As expected, they came pouring the pressure on after Alibi ($28) – who jumped smartly but was eased back into an one-out one-back position - swept to the front shortly after Absolute Miracle (Alan Munro) momentarily took over the baton from the weakening Preditor (John Powell) at the 200m, but their challenges were a little toothless.
On the other hand, right on the outside, the Cliff Brown pair of Debt Collector (Michael Rodd) and Elite Excalibur (Vlad Duric) were not out of contention for a last-gasp blow as they unwound with their usual late flourish. Favourite Debt Collector, however, levelled out while Elite Excalibur ($50) kept motoring away to lunge at the line in a desperate bid to overhaul Alibi.
Upon pulling up, Duric instinctively raised his hand, thinking he had got the nod, while Boss on the far side also seemed confident the winning post had arrived on time for him. The photo print in the end proved Boss right with the verdict going to Alibi by a short head from Elite Excalibur with Infantry a neck away in third, and Lim’s Cruiser in fourth place another head away.
Debt Collector ran sixth 1 ½ lengths off Alibi. The winning time was 1min 34.95secs for the 1600m on the Long Course.
With the third and final Leg, the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby (2000m) set down for decision on July 9, Alibi has three weeks to regather himself for a clean sweep which has never been completed before.
Deputising for trainer Michael Clements who was away in Phuket, assistant-trainer Michael ‘Chopsy’ White said it would be contrary to the spirit of ‘having a crack’, especially if it meant a chance of rewriting the record books, if Alibi did not figure on the Derby line-up, even if going on that first test over the mile when he just fell in by a hair’s breath, the 1 ¼ mile might on paper look a little far.
But savouring that Patron’s Bowl win was the only thing that mattered to White at that very moment – as well as for the boisterous bunch of owners led by Mr Saeful Mawar, with any decision about the Derby to be taken in the cold light of day long after the last flutes of champagne had been glugged down.
“It’s such a privilege to train a horse like Alibi,” said an emotional White at the post-race interview.
“With Glen Boss as his regular rider, it gives you such a huge advantage and such a great confidence. It’s just phenomenal what he’s done to win the first two Legs, it makes my job easy.
“We’ll see how he comes through that race, but you’d be unhappy not to go for the Derby. The distance is probably not his best, but he’s a horse who gives 150% and if he pulls up good and is in the same condition as he was leading up to the first two Legs, then we should give it a go.”
Boss was a little more circumspect about the Derby trip, but would rather treasure the accomplishment of etching Alibi’s name over two-thirds of the journey towards the Triple Crown, and praise his amazing ability to surpass himself when the chips are down.
“I really respect this horse. He has such a great determination to win,” said the Australian Hall of Fame jockey.
“He had a lovely run in transit. From the get-go, everything was executed to plan.
“I held him up as long as I could. When the chasers came around, I counted and counted before I let him go.
“He reproduced the same acceleration he showed at his last start. I’m not sure about going to the Derby, but this horse has such a will to win.
“All the credit must go to Michael and Chopsy for having kept him in such great shape throughout the four-year-old campaign.”
Alibi’s owners, who are known under the collective name of Alibi Stable, have always turned heads with their raucous celebrations at the winner’s stall and Champagne Room, but one member who was probably the most vocal was its main principal, Mr Saeful.
“I’ve been an owner for 30 years from the time of Royal Demus and Walk The Talk. I’ve had horses with Douglas Dragon and M Ismail, but this is the best horse I’ve had,” said Mr Saeful.
“Most people only talk about Debt Collector and Lim’s Cruiser. I think after those two wins, it’s time they start talking about Alibi!”
There is no doubt Mr Saeful’s favourite horse will long be remembered as one of the best four-year-olds to have graced our turf, never mind if he is more workmanlike than flashy in his running style.
Opinions can differ, but one thing that does not lie is the returns on the investment. With that seventh win along with four seconds placings in only 12 starts, Alibi has now rung up close to $870,000 in stakes earnings for Mr Saeful and his lucky partners.