Turf test for Kok 2YO ahead of final Assault

Autumn Assault ran a blinder in the second Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series, but his trainer David Kok still felt mixed emotions.

Unless you are particularly hard to please, any trainer would derive great satisfaction from a smack-up second from a youngster with no prior racing experience, more so when the conqueror is the favourite to the two-year-old crown this year, the undefeated Pennywise.

But Kok said he was actually expecting the son of Rock ‘N’ Pop to win first-up. More so when two days earlier, he had welcomed his fourth child: Baby daughter Ilyssa!

Autumn Assault (Benny Woodworth) gets reeled back in by Pennywise (Nooresh Juglall) on the inside, picture Singapore Turf Club

At the 300m mark of the Magic Millions National Yearling Sale Stakes (1100m), the Singaporean handler thought he had the perfect gift to celebrate the happy event. Autumn Assault (Benny Woodworth) had shot past Pennywise (Nooresh Juglall) with relative ease, and was well on his way to a victorious opening act.

But the part Hong Kong, part Singapore-owned gelding could not put the race to bed. Being on his own was not quite his idea of racing, it seemed – Pennywise eventually clawed his way back to beat him by a neck on the line.

“He hit the front twice, but he kept waiting for the other horse!” said Kok who was obviously still smarting from the agonisingly close defeat.

“He should have won but his lack of racing experience cost him the race. I was happy with the run, but at the same time, not happy he lost as I was very confident in his ability.

“This horse has a touch of class and I thought he could win on debut. He got lost in the last bit, but in saying this, he also got beaten by a very good horse.”

Kok has obviously locked in the fifth and final Leg as Autumn Assault’s main target, but opted out of the fourth Leg, the Inglis Ready2Race Stakes (1200m) on July 1 in favour of this Sunday’s $85,000 Restricted Maiden race over 1200m.

“He ran well on Polytrack but I wanted him to get a feel on turf before he goes for the final,” said Kok in reference to the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) run on turf on July 13.

“I thought it’d be better he runs in this race against older horses as well, just to get the experience – and also for the light weight.”

Such Restricted Maiden races afford juveniles a significant pull in weights in relation to their older three-year-old counterparts – 7.5 kilos. Autumn Assault was allotted only 49.5kgs which Woodworth will probably ride at half-a-kilo over.

“It was a very good run first-up, but he was still green and Juglall’s horse, who is a very good horse, came back and beat us,” said Woodworth.

“But he has improved after that first run. I galloped him on Tuesday and he went very well.

“He’s drawn wide (10), but he’s got good gate speed, and hopefully, I can again get him in a handy position like at his first run.

“I expect him to run better this Sunday especially with no weight on his back. I’m aiming to ride him at 50kgs, it should be okay.”