The much-awaited two-horse war between Mr Big and Yin Xin did not disappoint with the latter coming out on top courtesy of a gem of a ride by top jockey Joao Moreira on Sunday.
Based on their last encounter in the $1 million Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint (1200m) when Mr Big beat all but the winner Ato while Yin Xin finished a trailing last, the wood was clearly with Mr Big. But it was the Michael Freedman-trained gelding’s first run since the KrisFlyer, while Yin Xin already had one run under the belt – a cracking second to Super Easy in the Group 3 Paititi Gold Trophy (1200m) on July 15.
The market odds reflected the general sentiments with Mr Big starting as the even-money favourite, just nudging Yin Xin out of favouritism on $11. The results went to script except it was the second elect who got the verdict.
Yin Xin (Joao Morreira) proves too strong for Mr Big (Stephen Baster) in the Open Class Stakes over 1100m on Sunday, picture Singapore Turf Club.
But Moreira pulled off a masterly ride that made the difference in the end. Despite being one of the best away, Yin Xin was intentionally eased off the speed while Mr Big (Stephen Baster) railed through to share the lead with Coup Align (Tan Wei Li).
Captain Obvious (Troy See), the other well-fancied runner in the small eight-horse field in the $125,000 Open Class race over 1100m on Polytrack, was a little more rearwards – sixth spot biding his time.
Turning for home, Mr Big looked to have the ascendancy as he took the shortest way home on the fence, but Moreira pre-empted that advantage by giving Yin Xin his head a few strides before as they swung out three wide.
Probably in need of the run, Mr Big looked like he had been left slightly on the backfoot by that lightning move. Baster rode for dear life, but the winning momentum was clearly with Yin Xin who went on to score by half-a-length.
Mr Big certainly lost no admirers with his second place (his fifth) to maintain his outstanding record of never having finished out of the placings in 15 runs. Captain Obvious made good ground on the inside to run third another 1 ½ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 4.91secs, which is only 0.37 second outside Birthday Gift’s record.
“It was a good win considering it had all along been billed as a two-horse race. Even the betting suggested that,” said Kieser.
“I was pretty confident as he trialled enormously last week, but I was only worried that Mr Big was drawn on our inside.
“To be honest, my heart sank when Joao had the chance to lead, but he decided to let Mr Big pass him.
“But I did tell him to ride his own race and I guess he knew what he was doing. Anyway Yin Xin has shown before he doesn’t have to lead. He can take a sit and he’s done it again today.”
When asked about that off-beat move, Moreira certainly gave the impression he had already mapped out a Plan A and B in his mind.
“Theo had already told me he would not give me any instructions,” said the Brazilian rider who was at yet another treble. “I actually wanted to lead, but when the other horses went so fast, I thought it would not to be his advantage to fight for the lead.
“He’s a really nice horse with a really big heart. Even if Mr Big had an easier trail on the fence and was two lengths ahead of me, I was quite confident we could pick him up.
“When I dug him up before the home straight, he sprinted so quickly that I knew he would win.
“It’s so nice to be able to ride another winner for Theo, as to me, he’s one of the best trainers here.”
Yin Xin, a five-year-old New Zealand-bred by Quorum, has now posted seven wins and five placings from 13 runs for prizemoney in excess of $410,000 for the Tarsus Stable.