Not many would have tipped all three well-fancied stablemates Top Knight, Siam Blue Vanda and Safeer finishing outside the Top Five of the Class 1 race over 1400m at Kranji on August 2.
Not even their trainer Michael Clements, especially as he was looking forward to their run as an ideal stepping stone to the $1million Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) this Sunday.
Stable star and likely Kranji Mile favourite Countofmontecristo sat that race out, as he had already won first-up in a Class 1 race over 1200m on July 11.
Siam Blue Vanda will be ridden by Juan Paul van der Merwe in the Kranji Mile, picture Singapore Turf Club
An upwardly mobile sort, Top Knight has never run worse than fourth in 14 previous starts while Siam Blue Vanda was in red-hot form having won four times at his last five starts. Being four-year-olds, both are also among the leading contenders to the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) on September 6.
Safeer was the least consistent of the trio but his first-up fourth to Countofmontecristo on July 11 was full of promise.
In the end, Siam Blue Vanda ran sixth, two spots ahead of Top Knight while Safeer weakened to beat two home after being caught three wide throughout.
On paper, the performances from a Kranji Mile viewpoint were disappointing, but Clements is prepared to put a line through that race.
“Things didn’t go their way in that race. The track was really fast and seemed to favour frontrunners,” said the Zimbabwean-born handler.
“It was hard for backmarkers to make up ground, and they didn’t get a clear run in the straight as well. They ran okay, and they were a lot better off for having had the run.
“They have come through the run well and I was very happy with their gallops today. Louis (Philippe Beuzelin) rode Countofmontecristo, and the horse is very well, while the other three were ridden by track riders.”
As expected, Beuzelin is sticking with Countofmontecristo even if he has sworn allegiance to Siam Blue Vanda in the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge leading up to the Singapore Derby. Clements is leaving Simon Kok Wei Hoong on Top Knight, and has picked Juan Paul van der Merwe and John Sundradas for Siam Blue Vanda and Safeer respectively.
Clements has two more nominations who could not make past the first 16, but have been designated as Emergency Acceptors, On Line and Vittoria Perfetta.
Should there be no scratching in the Kranji Mile, they are guaranteed of a start in the other race they are entered in, the $70,000 Class 3 race over 1600m.
On Line and Vittoria Perfetta also ran moderately at their last starts in a Class 3 race over 1400m (won by Pax Animi) where they did not pull off much ground.
“It was the same as the others. They were off the pace, it didn’t suit them, and it was hard to make ground,” said Clements.
“They were better off for having the run. They also had their last gallops today, and most probably, they will run in the Class 3 race.”
Beuzelin and John have been booked aboard On Line and Vittoria Perfetta respectively.