Trainer Michael Clements believes that first mile test has come at the right time for his Singapore Guineas runner Big Hearted this Saturday.
Untried beyond 1400m at his previous nine starts, Big Hearted had, however, always sent strong signals from his come-from-behind runs that he would get the extra 200m of the $400,000 Group 1 feature race on his ears.
The son of Hallowed Crown has not quite followed the same programme as Clements’ 2019 Singapore champion three-year-old Top Knight, a proven miler and two-time winner over the trip before he went on to take out the Singapore Guineas, the third and final Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge.
Big Hearted (Simon Kok Wei Hoong) at his last win, picture Singapore Turf Club
But the two Falcon Racing Stable-owned gallopers still share a similar trait - longer journeys bring out their best.
“I’ve always rated Big Hearted and felt the further he gets to go, the more we’re going to see from him, especially as he strengthens up and matures,” said Clements of the four-time winner (1000m to 1400m).
“I really like to have him at the trip this Saturday. It’ll be his first time over the mile, but so will most of them, including Inferno.
“If anything, the mile has come at the right time with the extra six months for him to mature during the Circuit Breaker.
“No doubt at level weights, he comes under sufferance on these ratings at the handicap, but it’s the ideal race with its small field.
“He will get back, and if he gets a good passage, I hope he can finish really strongly.”
As far as ability goes, Clements wouldn’t cross the line to say Big Hearted is cut from the same cloth as Top Knight, who incidentally, has kept thriving as a four-year-old by claiming the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) three weeks ago.
More so when rising star Inferno, a horse who has already beaten Big Hearted four times, including at their last encounter (fourth, beaten four lengths) in the second Leg, the Group 2 Singapore Classic (1400m), may well again turn nemesis on Saturday, but the Zimbabwean-born trainer harbours a silent hope.
“He’s in great shape and I’m really pleased with his preparation,” he said.
“He had a good gallop early this week. He’s a sound horse, clean-winded and easy to train.
“Inferno is the horse to beat no doubt, but I’m quietly confident my horse will run a decent race and finish in the first three. On the form of his 1400m races, if he runs true to form, he can finish second or third.”
To be ridden by Louis-Philippe Beuzelin, Big Hearted is actually the last horse standing for Clements after the running of the second Leg, which was strictly speaking the first Leg since the original kickoff race, the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) was cancelled due to COVID-19 this year.
Clements saddled a quartet which also comprised Heartening Flyer (sixth), Buuraq (seventh) and Knight Love (10th), all of whom didn’t progress to the Guineas for a variety of reasons.
“I still rate Heartening Flyer, but the race has come a bit too soon for him,” said Clements.
“He has ability but he does need more racing experience. He will get there one day, but for now, I’ll keep him to Class 4 level.
“Buuraq ran fair at the 1400m, but he’s clearly not up to this level while Knight Love is just a sprinter and was never meant to run in the Guineas.
“Big Hearted was, on the other hand, my Guineas horse from a long way out, and he has peaked at the right time.”