Punters were right on the money when Smooth Operator came with a well-timed run to score his maiden win in the $20,000 Lim’s Racer 2016 Stakes, an Open Maiden race over 1400m on Friday night.
The Mint Lane three-year-old had only one third in four starts to show for, but with Ryan Curatolo, who steered the gelding to a barrier trial win last week, taking the ride for the in-form Leslie Khoo yard, it was not surprising to see him hammered with confidence into $15 favouritism.
The resuming Mai Darko (Amirul Ismadi) had slid away at the top of the straight after controlling the race to his liking, but his seconds in the lead were numbered when Curatolo angled Smooth Operator out for his run at the 300m, while Introit (Craig Grylls) and the well-backed Sun Elizabeth (Olivier Placais) were also in hot pursuit.
Smooth Operator (Ryan Curatolo) races away to his first win on Friday night, picture Singapore Turf Club
Mai Darko hung on for dear life, but Smooth Operator wore him down steadily to gain the win by half-a-length. Introit ran third while Sun Elizabeth seemed a little field-shy when a gap presented itself, eventually settling for fourth place another half-length away.
The winning time was 1min 24.13secs for the 1400m on the Short Course.
“He won a good race. In fact, I told the jockey to go in front, but if they go crazy to sit back,” said Khoo.
“The horse did a good job. He seems to be progressing quite well, he has matured quite fast.
“On his dam side (Shalini by Hurricane Sky), he seems to have some stamina. I tested him over the mile last time, but he was a bit keen.
“I will still run him over the mile later.”
Curatolo praised Khoo’s latest ward for his final burst even though the penny had not dropped yet.
“He showed a very nice turn of foot, but he’s still very green,” said the French jockey.
“I won a very nice barrier trial with him last week and he’s shown that form tonight. He can only improve from that run.”