Smokie Satellite spins O'Hara to driving seat for first time

Low-profile trainer John O’Hara played down his rise to the top of the ladder after bolter Satellite Classic handed him his fourth win in only four meetings this term, but was obviously still pleased with the way his horses are running on super at the minute.

O’Hara had an ordinary season last year with 20 winners from 342 runners to finish in the lower end of the ladder, but quite surprisingly, his yard has come out firing on all cylinders in 2018.

And to add another dimension to the unexpected purple patch, all his four winners were far from being top elects in their respective races. 

Satellite Classic (Vlad Duric, No 7) springs a major upset in Race 4, picture Singapore Turf Club

The mildly-fancied Satellite Winner set the mood on the opening day on New Year’s Day before three-figure outsiders Mettlesome and Baymax franked the flying form further last Friday, and now O’Hara has shot to the top of the leaderboard with a $314 longshot that had been brushed aside as a no-hoper by most.

O’Hara said it was the first time he has ever been in that lofty spot, but laughed off any notion he could stay there for much longer with all the big guns only warming up at this early stage of the year-long season.

“It’s nice to be on top but I may not even be in that spot by the next race!” said the Singaporean handler, totally aware there are three other trainers on three wins snapping at his heels, namely Steven Burridge, Cliff Brown and Michael Clements who all boast better firepower under their barn roofs.

“But it’s a great start to the year, very encouraging. I haven’t changed anything to my training, we are working as hard as ever, and we are reaping the results.

“For today’s winner, Satellite Classic, it was a lucky win. He has not shown much in five starts, but I know he has ability even if he is still very green.

“I wanted to put a senior jockey on just to educate him, and we were lucky to get Vlad Duric.

“They went hard early and they duly compounded in the end.”

New Singapore champion jockey Duric has certainly begun his title defence campaign in the best possible way. After a hat-trick of wins at his comeback meeting from suspension on Friday, the Australian jockey has now added a fourth victory to sit level with Michael Rodd.

“John only rang me on Wednesday. He said I’ve got a ride for you,” said Duric who is not often booked by O’Hara.

“I never rode the horse before. John just told to give him a cruisy run and hopefully he comes through.

“As he started to improve through the field, I felt he was coming along well, and once he saw daylight at the top of the straight, he just quickened away.

“It was a really nice surprise.”

Indeed, the Pins four-year-old was barely in the picture for a top-three finish when he swung for home with around six lengths to make up on race-leader Make U Famous (Ng Choon Kiat), but once Duric pulled the whip on him, he started to reel in his opponents one by one.

At the 100m, Swift Embrace (Michael Rodd) was the one who looked like he would come out tops in a three-way battle with Make U Famous and Dontlookdownonme (Mark Ewe), but Satellite Classic finished the best on the outside to settle the issue, finishing in advance of Swift Embrace by half-a-length with Make U Famous third another neck away.

The winning time was 1min 6.92secs for the 1100m on the Polytrack.