It’s not too hard to fathom why most people think Inferno is a shoo-in for the $400,000 Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) on Saturday.
Boasting a near-perfect record of six wins in seven starts (second at his only defeat), only the brave would tip against Cliff Brown’s new sensation in the third and final Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge.
Jockey A’Isisuhairi ‘Harry’ Kasim has come out as one those ‘garang’ (Malay for brave) enough to think Inferno is not infallible.
Mr Malek and A'Isisuhairi Kasim have hit it off well at Kranji, picture Singapore Turf Club
The former two-time Singapore champion apprentice jockey rides the horse tagged as Inferno’s biggest threat, the Lee Freedman-trained Mr Malek.
“I respect Inferno a lot, but I have that feeling my horse can beat him,” he said.
It sounds like a bold statement, but coming from someone who has a mantelpiece buckling under the weight of 10 Group trophies spread over only eight years, with the 2017 Group 1 Raffles Cup (1800m) on Gilt Complex gleaming the brightest, the Kelantan-born rider’s opinion is not to be trifled with.
“The last time they met in that race over 1400m (Group 2 Singapore Classic), Inferno had an easy run while my bloke had to work hard from a wide gate to get across and go forward,” said the big-race jockey.
“I had to use him and he ended up burning plenty of energy. He was still good to the line as he tries 110% all the time.”
One fortnight after that meritorious run in the Singapore Classic, the second Leg of the 3YO series – which was Mr Malek’s first venture over 1400m - on August 30, he was put under a mile test in a Class 1 event.
A’Isisuhairi rode the Oscar Racing Stable-owned gelding quieter this time. Result: He came sailing home on the outside, albeit while carrying the luxury load of 50kgs.
“He had no weight on his back running against older horses, and this time, he’s on set weights against his own age group (three-year-olds, but technically four-year-olds after the one-off changes brought to the series in the wake of COVID-19),” he said.
“In that 1600m race, he had a bad draw again, but this time, contrary to his 1400m race, we dropped him back with cover.
“He flew home. For him to do that over 1600m, it means we can go tackling Inferno knowing he can run the trip.”
With the benefit of three rides under the belt, which led to two wins (at his first ride on Mr Malek in a Class 3 race over 1200m when they came rattling home to beat Rocket Star, who will again be there in the Guineas), A’Isisuhairi said he had a better gut-feel what racing pattern would suit his horse to a tee on Saturday.
“He’s a really genuine horse and keeps improving with every run. I know him inside out now,” he said.
“I’ve ridden him both positive and negative, but to me, he’s a horse who can put himself right there in a race. I just hope he gets a nice draw, like barriers four or five, and he can get plenty of cover.
“If I can get him to travel in a nice position, I won’t have to do too much with him. The key is for him to do as little work as possible and save him for that last run.”
A’Isisuhairi has jumped back on Mr Malek only once since his last start, and will ride him to his last hit-out on Wednesday.
“I will gallop him tomorrow. I rode him once after the last win, it was just slow work, and I was pretty happy with him,” he said.
“He’s super fit. Mr Freedman knows what he’s doing, I can only try and do my job as best as I can.
“I would really love to see him beat Inferno this Saturday.”