Singapore champion trainer Mark Walker said he had “won a game of cards” after Cousteau broke through for his first Kranji win at his third start on Sunday.
Now, we all know the Kiwi knows how to train a horse, but less known was that he might have another string to his bow.
Walker was speaking metaphorically - he is no card player. It is more the game card of the mental kind he was referring to, especially with the “thinker” that is that particular three-year-old son of Exceed And Excel.
Cousteau (Alan Munro, No 1) gets up by a short head in Race 9, picture Singapore Turf Club
Walker said the expensive and well-bred type named after the famous French oceanographer was bought with a breeding future in the pipeline, but his coltish ways soon left connections with only one recourse – the unkindest cut.
Even after he went under the knife, Cousteau did not arrive as the sharpest tool in the box, as far as the space between the ears went, but he sure had ability.
“This horse was bought as a stallion prospect for A$230,000. But he stayed a stallion for too long, and in the end they had to geld him,” said Walker.
“Hopefully, he can make some money as a racehorse now. He was gelded as a late three-year-old, but many a time, such horses take a while to get it together.
“The classic example is Flying Fulton who was also gelded as a three-year-old, and it’s taken him 12 months to become the good horse he was.”
Flying Fulton was one of the best horses Walker put the bridle on during his first years at Kranji, winning four Group 3 races and the 2012 Polytrack champion title for the former five-time New Zealand champion trainer.
Walker quickly quipped that Cousteau was probably not cut from the same cloth as Flying Fulton, but they just shared similar traits after they got cut.
“Flying Fulton was proven, Cousteau still has a long way to go. I think he will come right at his next prep,” said Walker.
“He is not without ability, but he is a thinker. Put it this way, today we won the game of cards.”
Ridden by Alan Munro, Cousteau ($32), who had a sixth and a third at Kranji before Sunday’s account opener, came off a perfect cart behind longshot My Gold (Nooresh Juglall) nearing the home turn.
Once he saw daylight, the Te Akau Racing Stable-owned gelding looked poised to shoot past My Gold, who had just got the better of race-leader and favourite Enthuse (Vlad Duric) at the top of the straight.
But he took a while to get there despite Munro’s persuasion. Soldado (Daniel Moor) was joining in for a three-way thriller, but Cousteau kept finding extra to get the money by a short head from My Gold, with Soldado third another head away. The winning time was 59.82 seconds for the 1000m on the Polytrack.