Trainer Desmond Koh described the late scratchings of three well-backed runners in Race 7 as a “freebie” handed on a silver platter after his unfancied charge Oxbow Sun went on to make all on Sunday.
Horses were all waiting in line for the starter’s orders when Ares (Michael Rodd) reared in his gate, was subsequently vetted and not passed fit to race. Two more then turned unruly in their barriers – favourite Toliman (Manoel Nunes) who burrowed underneath to run off riderless and saddleless while First Precinct (Glen Boss) kicked back at his gates and was also shown the yellow flag.
With the field decimated to nine runners, Koh saw his chances suddenly enhanced, but still in the conservative realms.
Oxbow Sun (Benny Woodworth) races away to an easy win on Sunday, picture Singapore Turf Club
Oxbow Sun, who had yet to finish in the money in two Kranji runs but did show an abundance of speed at his last start when he led before being engulfed late to run sixth to Absolute Miracle, was still not seen as a prime chance, but his odds had been slashed significantly to $60 while Murrayfield (Wong Chin Chuen) was upgraded as the new even-money favourite.
But it was Oxbow Sun, a three-time winner in country Victoria (Geelong over 1200m, Pakenham and Sale over 1400m) when prepared by former Darwin champion trainer but now Flemington-based Stephen Brown, who stole the race with an authoritative performance from barrier to box.
Well rated by Benny Woodworth, the Encosta De Lago four-year-old found another length of two as the chasing pack started to close in, drawing clear with a commanding break.
Parliament (Nooresh Juglall) who stalked up the speed behind Oxbow Sun from the start, could not muster an acceleration while Murrayfield and Solaris Spectrum (Matthew Kellady) looked rather one-paced.
It was the resuming Arhat (Shafiq Rizuan) who burst onto the scene late with a withering run, but the bird had already flown, with Woodworth just wielding the stick a couple of times in Australian style to make sure his mount did not flinch.
Oxbow Sun, who races in the now familiar yellow and red colours of Macau businessman Cheng Ting Kong, scored by just under two lengths from Arhat with Solaris Spectrum third another three-quarter length away. The winning time was 1min 23.02secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.
“In a rare case like that, it almost feels like a freebie. Our chances got bigger and bigger as one favourite after another got scratched,” said Koh.
“That’s the way he runs in Australia and we kept it that way. The plan was to go forward anyway, but it would have been much harder if those three horses were not scratched.
“Benny rode him well. The horse looked quite relaxed but he will have to learn to settle even better if he is to improve further.”
While Koh had every reason to be happy with the unexpected windfall, trainer Michael Clements was also rapt with Arhat’s first-up run.
“It was meant to be a pipe-opener today as he hasn’t raced since the end of last year. We gave him a break as he had had enough,” he said.
“I still expected a good run from him. When the winner skipped clear, he was left with too much to do, but he found the line really well.
“I will try to get him up to longer distances. We thought he could be a Gold Cup horse last year, and I guess I will be looking at some long distance feature races for him, maybe a race like the Moonbeam Vase or the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.”
The Group 3 JBBA Moonbeam Vase (1800m) is run on April 16 while the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) is run on June 4.