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Preditor gives Poon second Group win in Jumbo Jet Trophy

Top Hong Kong apprentice jockey Matthew Poon might not have cut a swathe like he did at his first Singapore cameo last year, but he had actually saved the best for last at his last day of riding at Kranji on Sunday, scooping up a hat-trick of wins, which featured the $200,000 Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) aboard Preditor for good measure.

On only two winners going into the Jumbo Jet Trophy meeting, Poon has had a more subdued stint thus far. In a two-week blitz over four meetings at Kranji last year, the Poon Train, as he is affectionately known, blazed away to six wins, including banging in a first Group success in the Group 3 Garden City Trophy (1200m) aboard Faaltless.

The one-kilo claim (as opposed to two last year) partly explained the quieter time, but the newly-crowned Hong Kong champion apprentice jockey would have still been happy heading home with a score only a third of what he brought up last year. 


Preditor (Matthew Poon, No 10) surges late to earn the top prize in the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy, picture Singapore Turf Club

A quick glance at the 24-year-old’s six bookings for his last day showed that none were surefire chances. Deep down, he could only wish he would still get to bid Kranji goodbye with at least a winner – preferably one for his Kranji master Shane Baertschiger since the two he won were for other trainers (Enchanted Mister for Lee Freedman and Ultimate Killer for Kuah Cheng Tee).

The Adelaide-trained rider’s wish amazingly came true - and three times over. Again showcasing that trademark poise and strength that won so many over last year, Poon ended that second Kranji stay with a late flourish, scoring aboard Marine Treasure (see other report), Preditor and Silent Prince – and yes, they were all for Baertschiger!

No doubt, the feat that knocked people off their socks the most had to be that stunning second Group 3 winner (he has yet to earn such accolades either in Hong Kong or Adelaide) while visiting as a young apprentice jockey in search of experience, a feat not many rookies around the world can list on their budding résumés.

But as humble as ever, the Poon Train is not one to blow his own whistle. To him, it was all part of a learning curve which was made all the more smoother with Baertschiger’s unwavering support right through.

“Things have gone good for me. I got three winners and another Group 3 win, I can’t complain,” said Poon in his typical understated manner.

“But I have to first and foremost say a big thank you to Shane for looking after me so well yet again, and also the Singapore Turf Club for giving me the opportunity to come here again.

“Shane and Scotty (assistant-trainer Bailey) have been simply amazing. They have given me a lot of opportunities, they supported me with most of my rides.

“I’m looking forward to going back to Hong Kong for the new season (which begins on September 2), but I sure would like to come back to Singapore again.”

While he came up as the South Australian Apprentice Academy’s Dux last year, Poon’s second bite at the cherry came at the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s behest this time - like a working holiday to keep him tuned-up during the Hong Kong break.

If one cast a look at his win aboard $78 shot Preditor in the Jumbo Jet or Silent Prince, another outsider ($74) in the very next race, the Lucky Last ($45,000 Waikato 2009 Stakes, a Class 4 Non Premier race over 1600m), there is no doubt Poon was already a very accomplished hoop who does not need much refining.

The two rides were like Xeroxes of each other, actually.

They both came from near-last, with Poon stuck in an untenable position at the top of the straight, but under his vigorous riding, they both stormed in at the eleventh hour to hit the jackpot.

No doubt the more nail-biting finish - and by far the more momentous - was Preditor’s last-stride cliffhanger in a most riveting Jumbo Jet Trophy four-way go.

The Savabeel six-year-old entire lobbed along ahead of only Mr Spielberg and Bahana for most of the trip. Even with the winning post in sight 400m out, he was still lurking around behind a fortress of horses.

Almost giving up on Preditor, Baertschiger had his eyes cast elsewhere at that moment. Of his trio of runners, Aramco (Wong Chin Chuen) looked to be the only one still in with a decent shout as the well-backed Clarton Super (Azhar Ismail) hit the front, while his third runner Best Tothelign (Matthew Kellady) had already wilted after being prominent early.

For Preditor, not only he had the job ahead with acres of land to make up, but Debt Collector (Michael Rodd) had already launched a stinging run on the outside. Not many can claim the bragging rights of pegging back the 2016 Singapore Horse of the Year in full flight – even if he was resuming from a long break in Australia. 


Winning connections celebrate Preditor's triumph in the Jumbo Jet Trophy: (from left) trainer Shane 
Baertschiger, jockey Matthew Poon and stable representative Ms Chua, picture Singapore Turf Club

But they had not reckoned with the “last train running”! The moment Poon angled his mount towards the outermost path to the wire, the predatorial instincts in Preditor were jolted back in full gear.

It still looked like mission impossible with Debt Collector flashing home at the rate of knots, and all poised to dish out a late sucker punch to Clarton Super and favourite Circuit Land (Vlad Duric), but the “pink panther” (Baertschiger’s pink and red colours as he owns him, too) flying on the outside lunged late to finish right over the top of them.

On the line, a head separated him from a very gallant Debt Collector with Clarton Super third another half-a-length away, but after a successful objection from Duric alleging interference at the 1000m, Circuit Land, who was a nose away in fourth, traded places with Clarton Super. The winning time was 1min 21.28secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.

While the judge’s photo was required to ascertain the winner, Poon said he could not split his two Group wins in Singapore.

“Both wins were good. The first one on Faaltless was special, but so is this one because they were both for Shane,” he said.

“I rode Faaltless for the first time in the Group race, but I knew Preditor well as I won on him last year. All the credit goes to Shane.

“I did watch Preditor’s recent races and I saw how he came from behind in the Kranji Mile. He finished off nicely but the two Hong Kong horses (Southern Legend and Horse Of Fortune) were too good.

“I think if he had drawn better today, he would have won more easily. I had a good run on the outside of Michael’s (Rodd, Debt Collector) but I didn’t want to follow him as I thought he would go wide for his move at the top of the straight.

“I waited a bit longer and once I took him to the outside and he saw daylight, he just flew home.”

Baertschiger said that even though he was barracking more for Aramco inside the last furlong, he knew Preditor would go close when he caught sight of a pink flash rushing home on the outside.

“I didn’t think he could win from where he was. He was a long way back and Debt Collector was in front of him,” said the Australian handler who was at a terrific four-timer (Red Symphony won earlier) that has vaulted him back to first place on 40 winners, based on a better countback for seconds than Lee Freedman.

“I was going for Aramco instead, but Matty rode a very patient race and got him into the clear at the right time.

“I told him before the race that as he was drawn off the track (14) to go back and not to push forward.

“In the Kranji Mile, we raced him the same way. If he had drawn better then, he would have been the first Singapore horse home as he ran the best sectionals.

“The longer the better for him. The Gold Cup is a race I will definitely be aiming at for him.”

The Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) is the third and last Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series and will be run on November 11. Prior to that, Preditor may even have a crack at the first two Legs, the Group 1 Raffles Cup (1600m) on September 23 and the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m) on October 21.

Baertschiger rued the fact he won’t be able to count on Poon for that next chapter of Preditor’s campaign, but certainly hoped to see the popular young man back at Kranji in the foreseeable future.

“Matty didn’t get as much support from the other trainers this time, probably because he claims only one kilo, but I had no problem in putting him on my horses,” he said.

“He’s a very good jockey. He’s just as skilled with the right hand as he is with the left hand when using the whip.

“He rode six winners in two weeks last year, and this year he rode four in three weeks. I wished he could have stayed longer, but he’s got the Hong Kong season starting soon.

“I hope he can come back again next year. Even without claim, I’ll still put him on!”

With that latest thriller of a win and a first Group success under the belt, Preditor has now taken his record to five wins and two thirds in 18 starts for prizemoney past the $400,000 mark for Baertschiger.

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