Last year’s inaugural winner Southern Legend will be back for his title defence in the $1.5 million Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) on May 25.
Just like last year, the Caspar Fownes-trained galloper will be one half of a two-pronged attack from Hong Kong. After saddling the runner-up Horse Of Fortune in the Invitational race, fellow Sha Tin trainer Tony Millard will attempt to go one better, but with a different contender, the well-named Singapore Sling.
Of the two raiders from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Southern Legend is the highest-rated with an international rating of 116 points. The six-year-old son of Not A Single Doubt may not have visited the winner’s circle again since his Kranji triumph in May 2018, but has often been placed in Sha Tin feature races, including a third place to Hong Kong star Beauty Generation in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile (1600m) in December and a second place in the Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) in February. At his last start, which took place overseas, he ran a creditable sixth to Japanese champion mare Almond Eye in the Grade 1 Dubai Turf (1800m) at Meydan on March 30.
A South African-bred five-year-old by Philanthropist, Singapore Sling (112 points) was a former winner of South Africa’s Grade 2 Dingaans (1600m) in 2016 before he was exported to Hong Kong. Though he did not score at Group level at his new home, he did show stacks of promise with two wins, including one in the second Leg of the four-year-old series, the Hong Kong Classic (1800m) before running second in the final Leg, the Group 1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
He has been a little in and out since, but he did show a resurgence of form in two starts this campaign, culminating with a solid second place to Beauty Generation in the recently-run Group 1 Champions Mile (1600m) on April 28.
The local armada of eight entries assembled to counter the Hong Kong assault is headed by Kranji’s current ratings table-topper Debt Collector (115 points). Cliff Brown’s 2016 Singapore Horse of the Year and five-time Group 1 winner is unbeaten at his last four starts, which includes his nail-biting win the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) at his last start on April 7.
Brown has kept his champion fresh for that race and is also blessed with another choice representative in Elite Excalibur (105 points), an impressive first-up winner of the Kranji Mile prelude, the Group 3 Moonbeam Vase (1600m) last Sunday week.
The formline in the Moonbeam Vase will be a strong guide as it includes three other Kranji Mile contenders who put in very valuable lead-up runs. Singapore champion trainer Lee Freedman’s Hong Kong-owned galloper Blizzard (108 points) ran third after overcoming a wide trip. The Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1400m) winner is peaking at the right time.
Trainer Shane Baertschiger’s Preditor (108 points) was second-up in the Moonbeam Vase after a super first-up third to Debt Collector in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) a month earlier. Last year’s Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) winner reproduced that form with a closing fifth.
Japanese mare Makanani (105 points) fleetingly gave the impression she could spring a surprise in the Moonbeam Vase, but the Black Tide five-year-old peaked on her run to finish sixth. Hideyuki Takaoka’s mare is an out-of-out stayer who will certainly be in the shake-up.
Trainer Michael Clements will saddle his No 1 flagbearer Countofmontecristo (109 points), so many times the bridesmaid in Group events. The 2017 Singapore Three-Year-Old champion has continued to stamp his mark at the elite level, taking out the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) in 2017, but has found one better in Group races on no fewer than five occasions, the most notable being in the 2017 Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby (2000m) won by Infantry.
Trainers Bruce Marsh and Tan Kah Soon round out the home team with one contender each – 2014 Singapore Horse of the Year and 2014 Group 1 Panasonic Kranji Mile winner War Affair (113 points), who just made his racing comeback with an unplaced run in the Group 3 Rocket Man Sprint (1200m) on May 5 and Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m) winner Clarton Super (108 points) respectively.
List of selected runners:
|Name of Horse||Int’l Ratings||Trainer|
|SOUTHERN LEGEND||116||Caspar Fownes (HK)|
|DEBT COLLECTOR||115||Cliff Brown|
|WAR AFFAIR||113||Bruce Marsh|
|SINGAPORE SLING||112||Tony Millard (HK)|
|CLARTON SUPER||108||Tan Kah Soon|
|ELITE EXCALIBUR||105||Cliff Brown|