Trainer James Peters is banking on another Oscar Racing youngster to shine in a two-year-old feature this Friday – Mr Hooper.
Last year, Peters’ banner two-year-old Mr Hanks carried the famous yellow and blue spotted silks of Mr Phua Chian Kin (CK) to victory in the Group 3 Juvenile Championship (1400m), but narrowly lost the overall 2YO title to Be Bee, the victor in the other big race for 2YO’s, the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m). Mr Hanks ran 10th in that race.
It is precisely in the last Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series that Peters will aim for a better outcome at this year’s renewal – more so when there is no second shot at Group glory since the Juvenile Championship was discontinued this year.
Mr Hooper (Wong Chin Chuen) at his debut win on July 1, picture Singapore Turf Club
The Oscar Racing stable is also hoping to break a bit of a hoodoo in that race. Though they have often fielded smart and precocious juveniles in the series, they have yet to win the Aushorse Golden Horseshoe. Even the Laurie Laxon-trained 2014 champion two-year-old Affleck found one better in Kiwi Karma in the Aushorse Golden Horseshoe before turning the tables on his arch-rival in the Juvenile Championship that year.
Mr Hooper might not have the same X-factor as Affleck or even Mr Hanks (stamped his class on debut with a 4 ½-length rout last year), but a convincing debut win in a Restricted Maiden race over 1200m (July 1) still puts him in good stead for a more than decent say on Friday.
“Mr Hooper showed from Day 1 he had ability. His trackwork has all along been very good,” said Peters.
“I don’t ask too much from my horses in barrier trials as you know, and he certainly didn’t trial too bad at his one barrier trial (second to Toosbies – on June 12 - whom he incidentally beat in second place on debut and will be one of his rivals on Friday).
“The rider (Daniel Moor) said it was a very good barrier trial. I then gave him a first run in that Restricted Maiden race.
“That was the plan: Get a test out of him and see how good he was. If he wins well, then he will go to the Golden Horseshoe – which he did.
“He’s pulled up well. It’s only been two weeks since that run, so I haven’t given him any strenuous fast work since.
“He looks well and seems to have held his condition. I just hope he reproduces what he showed on track and at his debut win.”
On that day, the son of Shamexpress never went around horses once he settled smoothly onto the fence following a smart jump from barrier six, scraping paint throughout before sneaking up on the inside of Lord Of Light to score by one length from Toosbies.
With another handy draw in five and the same rider hopping aboard, two-time Singapore champion apprentice jockey Wong Chin Chuen, Peters is hoping for the same charmed run even if he is bracing himself for a tougher task.
“He needed a lightweight rider with 50kgs on his back last time and that’s how CC got the ride,” said Peters.
“He obviously didn’t do anything wrong with him and CK was more than happy to keep him on even if it’s at set weights this time.
“The good draw is massive in this type of race. We were hoping for six or below, and we got five, which is brilliant.
“Hopefully, CC can give him an economical run. We shouldn’t have too many excuses.”
Other than the serious opposition which is certainly not to be sneezed at. The unbeaten Pennywise (winner of first two Legs), impressive third-Leg winner Lim’s Lightning or exciting filly Siam Vipasiri are some of the standouts in the full house 16-horse field, but Peters does not believe his charge can’t hold a candle to them.
“It’s a Group 2 race with $325,000 in prizemoney. Obviously, there will be some nice horses in the race,” he said.
“Lim’s Lightning was very impressive at his win and will be hard to beat, Pennywise won two for two. Whether my horse can measure up is a question mark but I hope he can win for us.
“He certainly deserves to be in the race.”
Peters actually has another two-year-old who could have been entered on the back of a promising first run when a closing third to Streetwise in the fourth Leg, the Inglis Ready2Race Stakes (1200m) on July 1 – Street Party, but he preferred to save the son of Congrats for another day.
“Street Party ran a nice third. He’s a nice horse, but he’s not quite ready for the Golden Horseshoe,” said Peters.
“I didn’t want to do too much with him early. He’ll take a bit of a break and I will find more suitable races for him.”