Trainer James Peters did not mind the “happy problem” he was saddled with after Skywalk landed the $100,000 Kranji Stakes B Division 1 race over 1100m on Sunday.
The Battle Paint four-year-old was one of three horses he was giving a “test run” over the weekend as a crucial guide to a much loftier target next Saturday.
Peters had entered Nova Vocal and Arc Raider in the $1 million Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) and Skywalk in the $1 million Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) – more to meet the deadline and without setting any high expectations they would get a ticket.
Skywalk powers home under Vlad Duric's strong urgings in the Kranji Stakes B Division 1 race, picture Singapore Turf Club
He was adamant the trio had to win to even be considered.
They all did. Peters was of course happy with such a 100% pass mark with distinction, but he still has to weigh in other factors like their recovery, handicap, opposition before casting anything in stone.
As of Sunday, Nova Vocal was a confirmed starter with Hong Kong-based visiting jockey Karis Teetan already booked for the ride.
Even though Arc Raider won earlier in the $85,000 Restricted Maiden race over 1400m (see earlier report), he still had to discuss with the owners, and it was with the same wry smile he welcomed Skywalk’s hardy win in the 1000m dash.
“I wanted to see how they’d get on and they all won. I entered them because they were early entries, but now that they’ve all won, it’s a happy problem!” said the British conditioner.
“Nova Vocal has pulled up well after his win on Friday night and he will run. I’ll have to see how Arc Raider pulls up, but I’m still not sure if he’ll get a run.
“Skywalker had to win today and he won well. He did it tough from the wide gate and the big weight (59.5kgs) today.
“The only concern is he is a Polytrack specialist, we’ll see.”
The Lion City Cup (1200m) is the third Leg of the Singapore Sprint Series and is run on turf. Skywalk ran in the first Leg, the Group 3 JBBA Rocket Man Sprint (1200m) also on turf, but the only Leg run under handicap conditions, and ran eighth to Aramco carrying 51.5kgs.
Big-race dilemma aside, Peters was above all delighted with the way his stable was getting back into the groove. Michael Freedman’s former assistant-trainer began the season well enough, but went through a lean period in the months of March and April, scraping up only one win from Nova Vocal on April 8.
Sunday’s double was bringing up four wins for May, tying with Cliff Brown on 14 winners.
“It’s been a good weekend. We had a slow last couple of months,” said Peters.
“We have clicked back into gear. It’s not easy, but my staff have stuck together; it’s a good effort from the team.”
Duric said Skywalker ($18) was in sparkling form going into Sunday’s race, but barrier No 11 was a less rejoicing factor.
“The only negative was the wide barrier. The horse was in good order, he trialled beautifully last week,” said the 2017 Singapore champion jockey who sits on top on 33 winners, three clear of Michael Rodd.
“The race worked into our favour. We were posted wide but we got a bit of cover, and he won a fantastic race.”
Skywalk has been a handy moneyspinner for the China Horse Club, racking up close to $370,000 in stakes earnings from his tally of six wins and three seconds in 14 outings.