Placais makes Super winning comeback on Bastille Day
French jockey Olivier Placais saved the best for last at his riding comeback from a three-month suspension on Friday night, which fittingly was on his country’s National Day.
The rider affectionately known as “The Conductor” was enjoying a fairly successful start to the 2017 season when it was thrown off track by a ride that Stewards took exception to back in February.
Placais paid a hefty price for not riding Perfect P to the satisfaction of the Stewards in a race on February 24, when beaten by stablemate Song To The Moon right at the death.
Olivier Placais revisits the winner's circle aboard Super Fortune, picture Singapore Turf Club
To pile even more misery on him, he also fractured his ribs in a fall just before he was handed his sentence on April 11. He served his time and convalesced back in Switzerland – his former riding base before coming to Singapore for a third season last year – and his native France.
Placais was down but not out. Granted a licence extension until the end of the year, the six-time Swiss champion was all pumped to prove he was worthy of the renewed trust in him – from owners, trainers, fans and the Singapore Turf Club.
And he did not fail to do so at his very first night back even if he had to wait for his fourth and final ride in the Lucky Last to accomplish that mission.
Riding trainer Alwin Tan’s recent Australian acquisition Super Fortune (ex Man To Love), Placais displayed great composure throughout the $60,000 Class 4 Division 2 race over 1200m even after his mount could not quite tuck in from his wide barrier No 11.
Placais still tried to pinch a bit of cover behind $18 joint-favourite Ladrone (Matthew Kellady) who was ahead in fourth spot, but without success, even getting trapped three deep at various stages of the race.
But the good news for him was the flying sectionals clocked by the leader Hero Champion (Benny Woodworth) in the first 600m. It was clear the sub-24 sectionals would on one hand, muffle Ladrone’s kick when he would be called upon in the last 300m, and on the other, would allow himself to have a last crack.
Hero Champion tried to kick clear but soon called it a night. As expected, Ladrone was the next to get engulfed while Southern Dragon (Barend Vorster), the other $18 favourite, was chipping away but not putting much of an indent into the margin.
It was instead Super Fortune’s fresher legs on the scene that took care of matters inside the last 200m, allowing a clearly back on song Placais to let fly that trademark whip-flailing recital - to the tune of La Marseillaise (France’s national anthem) no doubt - which had been sorely missed by his Kranji fans for three months.
Super Fortune ($24) duly obliged with a sizzling turn of speed that spoke volumes about his vast potential, darting away to a stellar 1 ¾-length victory from the fast-finishing Super Ball (Koh Teck Huat) with Southern Dragon a short head away in third place. The winning time was 1min 10.66secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.
A delighted Placais first and foremost thanked all the people who have not let up on their support even after his long absence.
“A big thank you to everybody. To Alwin Tan for his support, including that winning ride, and all the other trainers and owners who gave me rides at my first weekend back,” said Placais who besides Super Fortune, also rode Muscular Sprinter and Big Banker for Tan earlier, but without success (he also lost aboard the Mohd Yusof-trained Black Magic).
“I must also thank Danny Beasley, as he was the one who rode the horses I normally ride, in both trackwork and races when I was suspended.
“When I got on this horse (Super Fortune) in trackwork, I could tell he was fit and that’s all Danny’s good work and Alwin’s and his boys’ as well. I galloped him this week and he was in great shape.
“They went super fast and instead of tucking him back in fifth or sixth, I thought I would just let him roll. He was caught wide but he was on the bridle and everything was going well.
“Halfway around the last circle, he, however, hit a bit of a flat spot. I clicked him up but he took a while to wind up.
“But once he went through his gears, he was just too good. I think he’s a very nice horse who should have a bright future here.”
Tan was glad he had provided Placais with his comeback win, and also for Mr Chua of the Eight Eight One Stable for his latest pride and joy.
“Well done to Oli. He was injured and was away for a long time after suspension, and I’m glad he’s returned a winner on one of my horses,” said the Singapore champion trainer who won the Emirates Singapore Derby with Infantry last Sunday.
“We bought this horse after his last win in Australia through the recommendation of Mr Arthur Hoyeau, a Magic Millions agent. I saw he was a good sprinter and our Singapore races should suit him.
“My concern was his 422 days without racing and that’s why I gave him four barrier trials to bring his fitness level up. He has kept improving and I was quite happy with his condition before tonight’s race, but it was still a question mark.
“I was also concerned by the wide barrier, but Oli rode him very well and he won a very nice race. The blinkers also helped him.
“I’m very happy for his owner Mr Chua who has been a big supporter of mine for a long time.”