Progressive sprinter Niceone survived an objection from the second-placed runner to take out the $95,000 Class 2 race over 1200m on Friday night.
The flashy chestnut by Ishiguru benefitted from a speed battle between five runners upfront before hitting the front at the 300m under jockey Stephen Baster, but right on his haunches on the rails was favourite Speedy Cat (Joao Moreira) who was trying to sneak through the tight gap after recovering from a tardy getaway.
The pair did brush a little when Niceone rolled in a fraction, but the head-on camera view revealed Niceone always held his line from the 200m all the way to the line to score by one length from Speedy Cat.
Niceone (Stephen Baster) holds off the favourite Speedy Cat (Joao Moreira) to take the money in Race 8 on Friday night.
Moreira lodged an objection for alleged interference from the winner in the home straight but it was quickly overruled in the Stewards’ room.
Winning trainer Leslie Khoo, a former top-flight jockey himself, said such bumping duels are a dime a dozen in racing and his horse never took the running of the favourite and won his race fair and square.
“I was not worried about the protest. My horse barely touched the other horse and he was always clear,” said Khoo.
“I told Steve before the race that we would have to go against his usual racing pattern of leading tonight as there would be good speed in the race.
“True enough, they went mad in front and Steve rode him brilliantly, biding his time behind the pace.
“When I saw the favourite had missed the start, I was even more confident of our chances.”
Khoo said the now five-time winner from seven starts cannot be pushed too hard after his knee surgery.
“He had knee surgery for chip bone and I have to take him along slowly. I don’t have any major plans for him at this stage, just take him through his grades,” he said.
“I would like to step him up to 1400m eventually, but because of his knee, I won’t rush him.”
Baster said his decision to sit off the speed and make an early move at the top of the straight paid off.
“He’s a one-paced type of horse but a quick one-paced horse,” said the Australian jockey.
“I took him around at the top of the straight as I wanted him to get there early and someone else could poke his head in front.
“But he’s the kind of horse who can sustain such a run. He went very hard to the line and held on very gamely.
“I always held my line and was not really worried about the horse sneaking up on the rails.”
Niceone’s success – which was the second pin of a winning double for Khoo - brought his earnings to just a tick under the $200,000 mark for the Joy N Happiness Stable.
Though disappointed with the outcome, Speedy Cat's trainer Alvin Tan was still happy with the run but said his slow start proved costly in the final analysis.
"He's always had a bit of a problem with his start, but he was a lot slower this time," said Tan. "It was an uphill battle from there on in, but he still ran on very well in the end."