Trainer Steven Burridge has finally confirmed Captain Obvious will be on a plane bound for Japan to face the starter in the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) at Nakayama Racecourse on September 30.
After weeks of speculation over quarantine protocol issues pertaining mainly to his travel itinerary, more eyebrows were raised when the seven-year-old grey by Verglas was nominated for this Sunday’s $200,000 Group 3 Garden City Trophy (1200m), and even as a runner in Tuesday’s barrier trial at Kranji.
But Captain Obvious was scratched from both race and trial, and will instead fly to Tokyo on Thursday morning to become the second Singapore-based galloper after Rocket Man (2011) to run in the race which is also the eighth Leg of the Global Sprint Challenge and carries a purse of approximately S$3 million.
“He’s so well that I had to run him in a race here if he hadn’t gone to Japan,” said Burridge.
“The AVA (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore) had some concerns over his stopover in Bangkok as there are no quarantine protocols in place with Thailand.
“On Monday, I still didn’t know if he was going as they couldn’t give me an answer. That’s why I entered him in Sunday’s race and today’s barrier trial.
“There has been a bit of toing and froing over whether he is going or not, but it’s all sorted and he is 100% going now.
“There is a blood test to be taken on the way there, but he will take it on the way back now as they will treat him as a ‘new horse’ coming to Singapore.”
Given his lofty status as the second-highest rated (118) galloper at Kranji with Super Easy, who recently beat him into second by half-a-length in the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m), Captain Obvious does tick the right boxes for a race like the Sprinters Stakes.
The 15-time winner scored three “black-type” wins on both sides of the Causeway, the Group 1 Tunku Gold Cup (1200m) and Group 3 Malaysian Magic Millions Classic (1200m) up north and last year’s Jumbo Jet Trophy at Kranji, but it is his win in the Al Naboodah Construction Group (1200m) in Meydan, Dubai on January 20 that really gives him that global appeal for the Nakayama feature.
Still, Burridge is mindful of the toughness of a race in which even Singapore’s highest-rated (129) galloper Rocket Man could only run fourth to Curren Chan last year.
“We must always think twice when we consider such overseas races. He didn’t travel too well to Dubai as he picked up a bit of a virus,” he said.
“But he recovered quickly and his win in Dubai showed he could measure up to international level, and that has given us the confidence to go to Japan.
“Even when he ran fourth at his second race in Dubai, Krypton Factor (Rocket Man’s eventual nemesis in the Golden Shaheen), ran second and he finished within a couple of lengths of him.
“He’s fit and pulled up in great shape after his last race and I thought it would be a great opportunity to see how he goes in Japan.
“I don’t know much about the Japanese horses, but I do know they’re tough to beat on their home soil, and Hong Kong’s Lucky Nine and Little Bridge are world-class sprinters too.”
Burridge’s senior track rider Mick Lockett will again be the travelling foreman, just like in Dubai where he also looked after Dark Matter, El Padrino (then known as Ip Man) and Apache Crown, but he will however not be around to watch the race this time.
“Mick is going with him and will be replaced by Jakki (Harrison) in five days’ time as he has to come back to Singapore,” said Burridge who has booked regular partner, jockey Oscar Chavez, for the Japanese assignment.
“I will only head up there a couple of days before the race itself. It’s a 12-hour flight door-to-door and he won’t have any travelling companions this time, but he is a pretty contented horse and I’m sure he’ll be all right.
“He’s fit and well with most of the work already done here. Last Sunday, I even rode him on the course proper (turf) the other way of going (clockwise, which is the direction the Sprinters Stakes is run).
“I was very happy with him – he changed his legs and was on the right lead. Anyway, he does work that way on the Hong Kong track (Track No 3) and on Track 6 a fair bit, but I also wanted to give him a nice solid workout on the fence on the turf.”
As a precaution before embarking on such a venture, Burridge has also run a blood test on his horse and reported that the blood profile came back in good order.
“It’s all systems go. I just hope he travels well and that will be half the battle won,” he said.