New Zealand-bred gelding Devonshire emerged as a lightweight Singapore Gold Cup contender with a fighting victory in the $150,000 El Dorado Classic over 2200m on Sunday.
Ridden by champion jockey Joao Moreira, Devonshire, the $11 favourite, held off a late lunge from King Faalcon (Ivaldo Santana) to score by a neck with Mitre Peak (Alan Munro) a half-length away third.
The winning time of 2 min 17.12 secs was 1.79 seconds outside of the course record on the short course.
Devonshire (Joao Moreira) holds off a late challenge from King Faalcon (inside) to take out the El Dorado Classic on Sunday, picture Singapore Turf Club
Moreira took advantage of the slow pace to have Devonshire handy to the speed and settled him in second spot behind Mitre Peak. Bee Ahead (Stephen Baster) and Martincho Cat (Barend Vorster) were in close attendance.
Joyful Heart Man (Tommy Chang) made the turn leaving the straight awkwardly on the first occasion and ran wide. Chang eventually rolled forward, but was three wide going down the back straight, but still the pace had not quickened.
Coming off the back the tempo increased slightly, but still Mitre Peak held sway from Devonshire and Joyful heart Man with Bee Ahead and Martincho Cat not too far away.
Soon after straightening Moreira took Devonshire to the front and he quickly opened up a margin on his rivals. He was comfortably holding Mitre Peak, but late King Faalcon, which had been in a rearwards position, snuck up on the fence, eventually cutting the margin to a neck.
Devonshire could be one of three runners that trainer Laurie Laxon saddles up in the Group 1 Longines Singapore Gold Cup over 2200m on November 11.
Joining Devonshire will be Martial Art (fifth under Danny Beasley) with Martin being a possibility.
Devonshire joined the Laxon stable in May and after being an emergency acceptor for the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby in July the stable immediately set their sights on the Gold Cup.
“Right from the time he came to us we knew he wanted ground,” said Laxon’s lieutenant Shane Ellis.
“He’s matured into a nice horse and has really started to strengthen up and is going along nicely.
“We still haven’t finalised what’s running in the Gold Cup, but hopefully that win today will get him into the race.
“I didn’t think Martial Art ran too badly with the 59kg and if there’s any rain on Gold Cup day then that will improve his chances and we could also run Martin in the race.”
Moreira said Devonshire was coming a long nicely and deserved to be considered a lightweight chance in the Gold Cup.
“The pace was not that strong today and he’s usually a get back type of horse,” said Moreira who was landing yet another treble for the afternoon, giving him winner 185 for the year.
The winning team: Part-owner Adele Kneebone, jockey Joao Moreira, trainer Laurie Laxon and husband Mike Kneebone (right) proudly show of the El Dorado Classic silverware.
“We had to ride him handier to the pace which is against his normal pattern, but he’s still come out and won.
“This horse just keeps getting better and better with the racing and relishes getting over a trip.
“He’s a horse that has to be in contention in the Gold Cup. He’s going to get into the race with no weight and we know that he can run the trip after that win.”
The win was certainly well received by owner Mike Kneebone of Patella Racing.
Kneebone, the Asian representative of New Zealand Bloodstock, said it was a big thrill to win the El Dorado Classic, named in honour of the three time Gold Cup winner.
“It’s a big thrill to get this one out of the way,” said Kneebone. “Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards now to the Gold Cup.
“He’s had a good slow preparation. He’s a typical New Zealand-bred horse that just keeps getting better with age and when stepped up over more ground.
“New Zealand is proven with their stayers and hopefully this horse can get to show that in the Gold Cup.”
A five-year-old by Bachelor Duke from the Kashani mare Kashani heights, Devonshire has won five of his 17 starts with a further five minor placings and won around $280,000 in prizemoney for connections.
Moreira later made it four-timer for the afternoon when he secured the last race – the $55,000 Class 4 Stakes over 1400m, aboard the Michael Clements-trained Spinning Success.