Like in many other areas, the benefit of hindsight can go a long way in horse racing.
When First Choice made his Kranji debut in the fourth Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series, the Inglis Ready2Race Stakes over 1200m on turf, he showed blistering speed to grab the lead but weakened badly to finish sixth to Mr Hanks.
Trainer Theo Kieser did not think the RX Stable-owned rig by Love Conquers All would be blessed with such an abundance of speed, which also emptied out just as quickly in the last furlong.
First Choice (Saifudin Ismail) takes home the top prize, picture Singapore Turf Club
With that extra low-down about the two-year-old, the South African knew he had to harness that quality to better effect at his second outing, which came in Friday night’s $75,000 Restricted Maiden race over 1200m on Polytrack.
Even when they were handed the coveted barrier No 1, Kieser resisted the temptation of telling jockey Saifudin Ismail – who was aboard at the racing debut – to roll forward.
The whole idea was to save his energy more effectively this time – and they sure did.
Not the best away, First Choice ($27) was, however, able to capitalise on his pole position to rail through before taking an ideal berth behind race-leader Six Empire (Alan Munro).
Newcomer Shoqeet (Oscar Chavez) and favourite Paragon Star (Benny Woodworth) were next in line, but it was clear it was First Choice who had enjoyed the run of the race – which got even better as Six Empire kept drifting off the fence.
All of a sudden, First Choice found himself in the lead, which he kept extending under Saifudin’s urgings. He did get tired late but he had enough resources left to last by half-a-length from the fast-finishing Confide (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) with Six Empire hanging on for third place another neck away.
The winning time was 1min 12.53secs for the 1200m on the alternative track.
“He ran too hard at his first run. I didn’t expect him to be that quick,” said Kieser.
“As he was not fit enough, he fell into a hole. This time round, I told Saifudin to sit back.
“At the turn, the other horse rolled off, and he ran on nicely.”
Just like Kieser, Saifudin seldom visits the winner’s box these days – that was only his third win for the year whereas Kieser is faring a touch better on five – and said the inner draw and the postage-stamp weight (50kgs) were the key factors.
“At his first run, he overraced and had 57kgs on his back, but tonight he had a good barrier and only 50kgs on his back,” said the veteran Malaysian hoop.
“He was a lot more relaxed tonight. He didn’t jump as quick but I was still able to get him into a nice handy spot on the rails.
“When the gap opened, he went right through and quickened up very well.”