Champion trainer Michael Clements is hoping Group 2 winner Starlight can bounce back to winning ways in the $70,000 Class 3 race over 1200m at Kranji this Saturday.
The PSM Racing Stable-owned son of Headwater cemented his emerging potential with a stirring win from more fancied stablemate Tiger Roar in the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) in July, but didn’t quite make his presence felt when risen to the 1600m of a Kranji Stakes C race five weeks later.
That race was billed by many as the Singapore Guineas consolation stakes after tradition was eschewed with the cancellation of the third-Leg classic this year.
Starlight (Shafrizal Saleh) wins the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) in July, picture Singapore Turf Club
Prosperous Return still sealed Clements’ reign as the undisputed master of three-year-olds this year with a slashing win, even if that mock Guineas was held after they turned four. Both Tiger Roar (Clements’ winner of the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint over 1200m) and Starlight looked rather blunt that day, finishing fifth and eighth respectively.
While Clements thought Tiger Roar was too chilled when explaining his lacklustre run, he blamed the distance for Starlight’s flop.
“We tried Starlight over the mile. He was too keen and overraced,” said the Zimbabwean-born handler.
“He’s better suited to sprints. We gave him a freshen-up after his last race, and he’s come back a bright horse and is full of himself on the tracks.
“He’s back down to 1200m this Saturday, and I’ll leave the blinkers on. His track gallops have been good, he’ll have fresh legs.”
Clements, who went through an unusually subdued month in August with only two winners – Celavi and Prosperous Return in that mile race - also saddles the resuming Pattaya and Safeer in the race.
A three-time winner over the course and distance, Pattaya hasn’t raced since February when a fair fourth to Darc Bounty in a Polytrack 1100m. Clements sounded confident the Sacred Falls five-year-old can play his part in putting the wins back on the board and reel current leader and arch-rival Mark Walker (five wins clear) back in.
“Pattaya had a break and has done pretty well in training. He loves a wet track,” said Clements.
“We’ll wait and see how he performs. He had a couple of good trials and I expect him to go well.
“As for Safeer, we hope to see him competitive, but he doesn’t quite run up to expectations, even if he ran better last time.”
The Savabeel seven-year-old improved into a striking position into the straight in a Class 2 race over the Polytrack 1200m two weeks ago, but faltered to finish eighth, around five lengths off the winner Gold Star.
“Safeer has shown improvement in his trackwork,” Clements continued.
“He’s coming down in class, and again, we can only hope for further improvement. I’m looking at stepping him up in distance.”
Oscar Chavez, who incidentally rode Safeer to the first of his five wins four years ago when then prepared by Ricardo Le Grange, stays on board after linking back up last time out, while Starlight reunites with Louis-Philippe Beuzelin (aboard at his two other wins) and Pattaya has Shafrizal Saleh for the first time on board.
In his bid to spark the engine back up again following a few weeks of paltry entries, Clements presents a larger squad of 12 runners and one standby starter this week, albeit still not quite in the same league of his big teams that normally go into the 20s.
Three of them are newbies, including two from one of Clements’ staunchest supporters in the last couple of years or so, the Kuwaiti-owned Al Rashid Stable, Anara and Istataba in the $75,000 Restricted Maiden race over 1200m. Both are Argentinian-bred three-year-olds that Clements feels have some potential.
The third newcomer is Konan, a Nicconi four-year-old who won his two barrier trials ahead of his Kranji launch in the $20,000 Open Maiden race over 1200m, and will have the Al Rashid-owned Mellad as stable companion.
“Istataba (x Treasure Beach) is a filly who trialled brilliantly (won on September 16). She’s ready to go and I expect her to finish off nicely,” said Clements.
“The other one, Anara, has shown ability, but we have to see where we are with him first. He’s shown he would get over a trip, but he’s also drawn wide (16).
“He’s still a colt, and it’s likely we’ll have to geld him as he’s been a real handful, but he’s well enough, and I hope he goes well.”
Clements has booked Beuzelin on Anara and Konan while Wong Chin Chuen takes the ride on Istataba.