Trainer Shane Baertschiger kept his promise of giving owner Desmond Ong a winner on the day he brought his daughter Robyn to the races for the first time.
The top lawyer is one of the part-owners of January debut winner Stunning Cat, who was second-up one month later against similar opposition in Sunday’s $60,000 Class 4 Premier race over 1200m.
Ong has been among Baertschiger’s loyal band of owners for a long time, with the naming of his horses after late jockey Jacky Low (Baertschiger’s former apprentice jockey who died in a motorbike accident in 2012) well documented.
Stunning Cat (John Powell) scores back-to-back wins in Race 8 on Sunday, picture Singapore Turf Club
Daughter Robyn, who now rides one of Ong’s former racehorses Black Jack at the Saddle Club, turned 18 on February 5. Naturally, Ong had long been planning for her much-awaited first day at the races (admission age to the races in Singapore is 18 years old and above) and Sunday’s meeting slotted in as the perfect meeting given Stunning Cat was carded to run.
Baertschiger and assistant-trainer Scott Bailey had given Ong the assurance the horse had trained on and stood a good chance, and the rest would be all down to luck.
And as luck would have it, Stunning Cat indeed gave Robyn the chance to lead in a winner alongside her father at her baptism of fire at Kranji for the perfect birthday present, albeit belated.
Well rated in front by John Powell, who could not make the 54.5kgs on the former Brisbane galloper (when known as South Of France) at the debut run (when replaced by Barend Vorster), the Smart Missile three-year-old kept lifting his game the more Powell asked him to eventually thwart all comers in the home straight.
He actually looked like he was getting the staggers upon straightening, which he was probably entitled to given that he was caught four deep for around 200m after jumping from his awkward alley before Powell decided to push forward in order not to get caught on a limb.
Favourite Magic Wand (Nooresh Juglall) was looming as the most likely gatecrasher when he came off his box-seat to pop the question, but Stunning Cat found a second wind to rally home with two lengths to spare.
Knight Wager (Michael Rodd) ran third another half-a-length away. The winning time was 1min 12.2secs for the 1200m on the Polytrack.
“It’s my daughter’s first day at the races and she got to lead in a winner. It’s fantastic,” said Ong.
“Thanks to Shane, Scott, and JP. They told me they would get me a winner for my daughter and they’ve delivered!”
Baertschiger said he would have to monitor the way Stunning Cat comes through at his next endeavours before charting a more ambitious path for him.
“I threw him off at the deep end at his first run as he was still a maiden,” said the Australian handler.
“This morning, I told Des he looked better in the coat, his dapples have come out, and the field was not overly strong. He really fought on strongly today.
“I thought the favourites would get him, but he dug in. At his first start, he got lost, but he was a lot better today.
“I’ll see how he pulls up and progresses. We may then look at the 3YO series for him.”
The Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge kicks off with the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) on March 30.
Powell said the penny had not quite dropped for Stunning Cat but the way he won suggested he still had a lot up his sleeve.
“He had to work a little to get in front. He was floating a little in the straight,” said the Australian jockey.
“But to his credit he fought on well and won well in the end. He will get a mile.”