Trainer Alwin Tan said the lack of suitable races for Infantry has made it a Catch-22 situation in terms of raising his fitness level to the desired level.
Rated on 113 points, the Singapore Horse of the Year has to dodge those races where he would give away too much weight, but by staying in his box for too long, the cobwebs set in.
Still, Tan does his best in placing the Kajorn Petch Racing No 2 Stable-owned star. Things were looking up after a gallant third place first-up in the Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1400m) on February 17, with most expecting him to strip fitter at his next start in the Group 3 Committee’s Prize (1600m) one month later on March 18.
Infantry enjoyed a quiet spin at the barrier trials on Tuesday, picture Singapore Turf Club
Infantry did look like he was back in business when he ominously improved around runners, all poised to launch his customary burst at the top of the straight. But he was left standing when eventual winner Elite Excalibur and runner-up Elite Invincible shot past him at the 250m mark.
It was one of those runs that does not give much of a hint what could be the underlying cause of the defeat – his third since his Group 1 Panasonic Kranji Mile (1600m) win in October - but Tan for one is convinced his champion horse is not going through a slump in form.
“It’s quite tough to look for top class races for him. He rests too long in between and I can only use barrier trials to top him off,” said the 2016 Singapore champion trainer.
“The timing was very fast in the Committee’s Prize – around 1min 33secs – and it was hard for him to make up ground. But he’s pulled up well and on Tuesday, I gave him a barrier trial to keep him ticking over.”
With Vlad Duric taking over the reins in that barrier trial, it would appear that connections are still trying to find the right fit for their horse since regular partner Manoel Nunes left Kranji at the end of last season.
Ryan Curatolo jumped aboard in the Fortune Bowl but was replaced by Glen Boss in the Committee’s Prize, with neither getting the nod for a second sit when the next assignment comes up – the $500,000 Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) on April 27.
“The owners want a change of luck and we have gone for Duric this time,” said Tan.
“It’s his first time riding Infantry and he is booked for the Chairman’s Trophy ride. He rode him in that barrier trial on Tuesday and he was happy with his run.”
After jumping on terms, the Tavistock five-year-old gradually dropped out for the 2017 Singapore champion jockey before ambling along into fifth place, 12 lengths off the winner Preditor.
“I told Duric to not do too much with him in the trial, just a nice and easy hit-out,” said Tan.
“Duric just left him by himself and never gave him a squeeze. I will probably give him a few more gallops until the Chairman’s Trophy.”
Tan will also again pair Infantry up with stablemate Nova Strike in another feature race. The Red Giant five-year-old also ran in the Committee’s Prize, never threatening at any stage to finish 11th under jockey Mohd Zaki.
Nova Strike ran in the same Tuesday barrier trial as Infantry, but contrary to his stablemate, was ridden out more aggressively by new partner Olivier Placais in the last two furlongs to run a close second to Preditor.
“Nova Strike is a small horse and I wanted to give him a nice blowout. Olivier pushed him right out to the line,” said Tan.
“The track was too hard for him at his last start. He prefers a yielding track, which is probably the case for Infantry, too.
“I will give Nova Strike one more gallop before the Chairman’s Trophy.”
There is also a small chance Tan’s duo could be joined by a third contender, Maximus - depending on how he fares in Sunday’s $100,000 Kranji Stakes B race over 1600m on Polytrack, and also how he pulls up (see other report).
“I am actually going to nominate all three – Infantry, Nova Strike and Maximus – for the Kranji Mile,” said Tan.
The $1.5 million Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) will for the first time be run as an invitational race on May 26, alongside two other $1 million Group 1 races, the Lion City Cup (1200m) and the Singapore Guineas (1,600m) as part of an initiative to reboot the International races in Singapore by earliest, next year.