Alqantur in a canter for scaled-down outfit

Global operation Al Rashid Stable might have downsized its Singapore satellite stable, but newcomer Alqantur’s rousing win on Saturday has sent a clear signal that the Kuwaiti outfit still intends to stick around for a while.

The Star Turn three-year-old is one of only four left in Michael Clements’ yard while the squad under Mark Walker have all been either sold or transferred, mainly to Kranji stables and some in Malaysia, in the wake of the Kiwi handler’s sudden exit this year.

At the peak of the emerging Middle-East team’s presence at Kranji, Clements trained the bulk of their horses, with the likes of So Hi Class (by far their best horse), Day Approach, Kassab or Al Meqdam among some of the winners he turned out.

Alqantur (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) clears out for a comfortable win on debut, picture Singapore Turf Club

But Kuwaiti businessman Fahad Ibrahim Khalid Al-Rashid, who also races horses in Dubai (where his horses are regularly featured at the current carnival), US, England, Australia and Malaysia, noticeably took a step back in Singapore towards the back end of last season.

A first omen surfaced in October when six horses were moved to HQ in Dubai, Jacksa, Almugir, Zahau, Day Approach, Mellad and Al Meqdam, with more joining the exodus in the ensuing months.

Out with the old, in with the new and quality over quantity would seem to be the mottos defining the yellow-brown silks’ new direction in Singapore.

“Fahad gave me a budget at the beginning of last year to buy young horses and Alqantur is one of the four I bought,” said Clements.

“He was moving the older ones along and was shifting his focus to a new younger stable of horses.

“Like some owners of late, it’s a bit of sit-and-wait to see how the racing industry goes in the next year or so. They may well bring the numbers back up if things pick up.”

As much as it was a blow to lose quite a big chunk of Al Rashid horses, Clements was excited with the prospects shown by their remaining legacy, especially Alqantur (others are Istataba, Anara and the unraced Ealami).

“He’s an exciting young horse who was prepared in New Zealand where he always showed ability in his educational trials,” said the 2020 Singapore champion trainer.

“He was still green at his initial trials, but he has stepped up and improved each time he has come out.

“At his first barrier trial, he looked really uncomfortable. He had his head up and it was a bit of a worry.

“But he never does that in his trackwork. So we figured he didn’t like the kickback and at his second trial, he had a bit more room, and he won it nicely.

“Today, he had a good barrier and there was some speed in the race. We just told Louis (Philippe Beuzelin) to settle behind the leaders.

“He had an ideal race. Once he went around the couple in front, he ran away from them in the straight.”

From barrier No 1, Alqantur ($17) enjoyed a charmed run behind favourite Bounty Rainbows (Manoel Nunes) with Dabble (Matthew Kellady) in close attendance on his outside, and once he was brought into the clear at the top of the straight, the issue was soon a foregone conclusion.

Bounty Rainbows, who burnt some petrol in the first furlong in a bid to grab the lead, had had enough to eventually weaken to 10th place, while Dabble gave backers more reasons to cheer when he momentarily struck the front at the 400m mark.

But Alqantur was cantering at the 300m. Once turned out loose, the big-striding chestnut opened up to a commanding break, albeit still green in the way he skipped strides once or twice, to romp in by 3 ¼ lengths from Bingo Master (Wong Chin Chuen) with Deception (Shafiq Rizuan) in third place another 2 ½ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 10.41secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.

The win also gave Beuzelin his first 2022 win after he missed the first two meetings through careless riding suspensions. Seven races later, the French jockey rang up a riding double aboard Ksatria ($20) in the $30,000 Class 5 race over 1800m.