Former Melbourne champion trainer Lee Freedman landed his first Group 1 success in Singapore with Mr Clint in the $1 million Singapore Guineas (1600m) on Saturday.
The Australian Hall of Fame trainer came to Kranji the winner of no fewer than124 Group 1 races in his celebrated career, including one at his new hunting ground back in 2005 with Mummify in the now-defunct Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup (2000m) when then just a visiting trainer.
After starting his Singapore training career last September, Freedman took his first ‘black type’ race at Kranji in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) with Circuit Land on April 27.
Mr Clint (Zac Purton) off to a brilliant win in the Singapore Guineas, picture Singapore Turf Club
One month later, he had added another silverware, this time a Group 1 race to his budding Singapore trophy cabinet, courtesy of a superlative performance from Mr Clint under a peach of a ride from top Hong Kong-based Australian jockey Zac Purton in the third and final Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge.
“It’s a great thrill to win a Group 1 race here in Singapore. We’re here now and that’s what we have to do: Win these big races here, too,” said Freedman who later went on to train a double with Aotearoa in the last race – and incidentally shoot to the top of the log for the first time – on 26 winners tied with Shane Baertschiger and Michael Clements but first on a better countback for seconds.
“This horse (Mr Clint) is not the greatest here, but he’s a honest sort. CK (owner Phua Chian Kin of Oscar Racing Stable) bought him for NZ$90,000 and shared him with Laurie Laxon (previous trainer for Mr Clint). It’s nice to train a good horse for them.
“I told Zac that he should keep him on the outside as he doesn’t like to be on the inside of horses. He was travelling so well and I knew he would be hard to beat then.”
Starting as the $21 favourite, the son of Power indeed made light of a wide trip worse than midfield before swinging for home looking full of running, and stamping himself as the fresh horse on the scene.
After taking up the running and setting a steady tempo, Mr Clint’s stablemate Super Dynasty (Craig Grylls) tried to hold the fort for as long as he could, but soon buckled under pressure.
Considered as one of the leading hopes, Michael Clements’ Quarter Back (Glen Boss) could not muster any kick after camping outside Super Dynasty while Tesoro Privado (Nooresh Juglall) was caught in a pickle behind Super Dynasty, unable to find daylight, and even cut off Lord Of Cloud (Troy See) when he ducked back to the inside.
The winner, on the other hand, had steered clear of all that strife, cutting a swathe down the middle for an uninterrupted run to the line. King Louis (Barend Vorster) who was even further back astern, flashed home with his usual late run, but Mr Clint was home and hosed, falling in by one length from Ricardo Le Grange’s game challenger. With that fourth win in nine starts, Mr Clint has taken his stakes earnings past the $725,000 mark for the Oscar Racing Stable.
Third place went to another Le Grange, Captain Jamie (Alan Munro) who also got caught in traffic before running on to settle for a minor prize, another 1 ½ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 35.15secs for the 1600m on the Long Course.
Winning trio: (from left) jockey Zac Purton, owner Phua Chian Kin and trainer Lee Freedman smile for the camera, picture Singapore Turf Club
Purton, who was flying in for the Southern Legend ride later in the $1.5million Invitational Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) as his main assignment, said that Mr Clint was always in the zone despite covering extra ground on the outskirts.
“I didn’t expect he would show a bit of speed early, even if he was overracing a little,” said the Australian gun rider.
“I was able to put him back and he relaxed nicely for me from thereon in. He pinged in the home straight and was just too good.”
Mr Clint showed the same blistering dash in the first Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) running from the clouds to run second to Be Bee.
But he did not enjoy a clear run in the second Leg, the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) with King Louis laying in on him a couple of times in the early stages of the home straight, but he still plugged away to run ninth (in a way, Mr Clint was exacting sweet revenge on King Louis by holding him at bay this time).
There were no such tale of woes on Saturday, he was indisputably the best three-year-old over the mile, and probably even longer – which Freedman had already set his sights on.
“There are no more three-year-old races now, so he’s going for a break,” said Freedman.
“We will then bring him back for the longer races later in the year.”
Laxon, who also owns Aotearoa, was a happy man twice over at the winner’s circle.
“I bought Mr Clint and I always knew he would be a good horse. He has a Zabeel mare, a Danehill mare and a Centaine mare in his pedigree, all royal blood,” said the legendary Singapore nine-time champion trainer.
“I own Aotearoa 100% and I think she will also become a good mare. She will go for the Derby.”
Ridden by Daniel Moor, the Sakhee’s Secret mare just got up by a nose from the fast-finishing Dee Dee D’Or (Alexis Badel) in the $125,000 Better Than Ever 2010 & 2011 Stakes, a Kranji Stakes A race over 1600m. She returned $28 for a $5 outlay.