Forgiven gave his Singapore Derby prospects a significant boost following a thrilling nose victory in the $75,000 Hua Mei For Elders Cup, a Kranji Stakes C race over 1600m on Polytrack on Sunday.
After travelling midfield, the four-year-old by No Excuse Needed, who had Stephen Baster astride, unleashed a powerful turn of foot at the 200m to blouse favourite Martincho Cat (Barend Vorster) by the slenderest of margins right on the line.
Raffles Knight (Alan Munro) and Rapido Star (John Powell), who had been in the leading trio behind Knight’s Command (Soo Khoon Beng) from the start, stuck on well to finish third and fourth respectively.
Forgiven (Stephen Baster) gets up on the outside to claim a narrow victory over Martincho Cat (Barend Vorster) in the Hua Mei Elders Cup on Sunday
The winning time was 1min 41.17secs.
Trainer Laurie Laxon has pencilled in a Derby start for the Perfectum Stable-trained winner (now at his fifth win from 25 starts for stakes earnings in excess of $200,000) in five weeks’ time.
“He looked like he had won it right on the line. It was a good ride by Steve,” said Laxon.
“He’s not a bad horse. He’s already won five for us and he’s only four.
“The Derby is the race I may set him for now. He sure can stay.”
Laxon has won the Group 1 race over 2000m twice – with Dreyfuss in 2004 and Top Spin in 2008.
Baster, who was at a winning double having earlier booted home Magic Ocean in the opening event, was delighted the photo finish has swung in his favour this time. Riding Sky Protégé in the previous race, the Australian jockey was beaten by a similar margin by the Koh Teck Huat-ridden Knight Scorpio.
“You can’t win all the races. It’s good I got this one this time,” said Baster.
“I had a good cart-up behind the favourite (Martincho Cat) throughout and though he looked like he was a fair way back at the 200m, he pinged in the last bit and won.”
Baster said the topped-up Polytrack provided a fair surface which gave every horse a fighting chance.
“A lot depends on the speed of the race, but in general it is a fair surface for everybody,” said Baster.
“You can basically come from anywhere in the race. They’ve done a good job with the track.”