Trainer Hideyuki Takaoka proved the giant killer when the lone mare Better Life took out the Group 1 $500,000 Panasonic Kranji Mile over 1600m on Sunday.
Sent out the $40 second favourite, Better Life, ridden by Alan Munro, scored a comfortable one-and-a-half length victory over the $7 favourite Super Easy (Joao Moreira) with Ato (Barend Vorster) a neck back in third place.
The time was a smart 1 min 35.96 secs.
Super Easy was aiming for his 13th straight victory in Singapore and Moreira had the entire positioned in fifth position in the early stages of the race.
Better Life (Alan Munro) defeats Super Easy (Joao Moreira) to land the Kranji Mile, picture Singapore Turf Club
Gingerbread Man (John Powell) led the way over Ato and Waikato (Danny Beasley) before Flax (Jose Verenzuela), which had drawn wide, moved forward out wide on the course to take second spot before the field left the back straight.
Gingerbread Man still held sway over Flax and Waikato as the field turned for home while Moreira on Super Easy came from a one-out, one-back position into clear running soon after straightening.
It looked as though Super Easy was about to unleash his trademark powerful finishing burst but the spark was missing, although the four-year-old momentarily hit the front with 200m to run.
But down the outside sailed Better Life under strong urgings from Munro – himself no stranger to big-race success having won the 1991 Epsom Derby aboard Generous.
And like Munro, Takaoka has been a big-race winner in Singapore winning three of the last four Longines Singapore Gold Cups with the recently retired El Dorado and in 2009 he prepared Jolie’s Shinju to land the three legs of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge, including the Emirates Singapore Derby.
Just last month Takaoka prepared Keep Away – at good odds – to take out the Group 3 Committee’s Prize over 1600m.
While logic suggests Better Life should head towards the Group 1 $500,000 Raffles Cup over 1800m on October 21 and then the Group 1 $1.35 million Longines Singapore Gold Cup over 2200m on November 11, Takaoka is likely to resist the temptation as his main aim is the 2013 Singapore Derby.
Better Life made her debut in 2011 and Takaoka, who is renowned for his patience with his horses, has taken Better Life along quietly this year.
It is with this factor in mind that Takaoka is likely to bypass the Raffles Cup with the mare only a 50-50 chance of tackling the Gold Cup.
“I’m just a bit worried that the Raffles Cup might come up a bit soon for her,” said Takaoka.
“That race is only two weeks away and while the journey would be ideal I just want to see how she pulls-up from this race.
“My long range plan with her is to try and win the Derby next year, so at this stage I’m only 50-50 about running her in the Gold Cup.”
Takaoka said Better Life was a different kind of mare to his former Horse of the Year Jolie’s Shinju.
“She’s a different character to Jolie’s Shinju,” said Takaoka. “Jolie’s Shinju was lot keener and harder to handle sometimes on the track whereas this filly gets her work done a lot easier.
“She does everything naturally by herself and is a real pleasure to train.
“She’s done a great job to do what she has so far and I’m hoping she can keep it going.”
Munro praised the effort of Better Life, a horse that he has ridden in eight of her nine starts including four of her five victories.
“She deserved that,” said Munro. “She has taken time to mature.
“She’s an exceptional filly and her future is very bright. I think she would be some sort of chance in the Gold Cup, but she’s also a young horse.
“I know Takaoka likes the idea of the Derby next year with her and the Gold Cup at 2200m could be a bit early for her, but she is bred to stay.
“He’s very patient with his horses and so are the owners I’m sure in the long run they’ll do the right thing by the horse.”
A four-year-old Australian-bred by Smarty Jones from the Sunday Silence mare Quiet Life, Better Life took her prizemoney past the $500,000 mark for Sazuka Racing Stable after she was purchased for A$150,000 as a yearling.
The Michael Freedman stable was naturally disappointed when the winning sequence of 12 straight victories for Super Easy came to an end with jockey Joao Moreira offering no excuses for the defeat.
“No excuses. He was nice and well on the bit throughout, but he probably didn’t feel as good as he does over 1200m or 1400m,” said Moreira.
“I couldn’t get a clear run at the top of the straight, but once he did, he gave his all, but was beaten by a better horse on the day.
“I think that mare has probably improved a lot as well. She went past us very easily.”