Progressive stayer Tiger Roar continues to underline his vast potential with another impressive win at Kranji on Saturday, more so when he had to do it the hard way.
The opposition made up of smart stablemate Heartening Flyer and an Australian Listed winner in Sun Power, to name a few, in the $70,000 Class 3 race over 1400m was daunting enough, but the real concern in the camp was barrier two, seen as a poisoned chalice by trainer Michael Clements - and rightly so.
At his last start after leaving the machine from a middle gate in an identical contest four weeks ago, the Wandjina three-year-old had acres of land and gallons of clear air to spare when he swung for home down the outside.
Tiger Roar (Simon Kok Wei Hoong, No 14) looms up on the outside to score, picture Singapore Turf Club
Once he hit top gear, he rocketed home for an uninterrupted charge to the wire, leaving his rivals rooted to the spot. Even if the winning margin was only three-quarter length, the Tiger had given them a mauling all right.
This time round, such space was a luxury at the 400m as he found himself cluttered up behind a wall of runners and, alarmingly, giving the leading bunch a start of eight lengths, even after Singapore champion apprentice jockey Simon Kok Wei Hoong had diligently listened to Clements’ word of advice to pop off the rails early to preempt any traffic snarls.
Upfront at the 300m marker, Gold Star (Marc Lerner) looked home and hosed after he also had to zigzag his way out of strife to tackle the fighting trio of Elite Incredible (Oscar Chavez), Circuit Mission (Wong Chin Chuen) and Strong N Powerful (John Sundradas).
But Tiger Roar, who was eventually backed down to $11 favouritism after a fierce trading battle with Heartening Flyer inside the last few minutes to post time, had also found daylight after charting an identical path to Gold Star.
Kok had all this while been busier with ducking and weaving, but the moment clear galloping room presented itself, the growl could finally burst into a full-blown roar.
Unleashing the beast, Tiger Roar went on to finish over the top of them to just deny Gold Star by a short head. Elite Incredible, who is now Tiger Roar’s stablemate (after trainer Cliff Brown recently left Kranji), ran a creditable third for his first outing under Clements, another half-length away.
Strong N Powerful had every chance on the running rails but peaked on his run to settle for fourth place another half-length away. Tiger Roar stopped the clock at the smart time of 1min 21.53secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.
Singapore’s champion trainer was his usual unflappable self at the winner’s circle, even after such a close shave.
“For a while, it looked like he wasn’t going to get there,” said Clements.
“As he’s a horse that gets back, we thought barrier two would make him vulnerable in a traffic jam.
“I told Simon he had to come off the rails early, and he did. He had to come across horses in the closing stages, and as he’s a pretty classy horse, it’s his class that won him the race.
“He’s definitely looking for further.”
Champion owner Falcon Racing No 7 Stable actually forked out the late nomination fee of $535 to enter Tiger Roar in the $1 million Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) in three weeks’ time on May 22, but Clements said it would be unrealistic to see him securing a berth even after Saturday’s win.
“His ratings (68 points) are too low. Even if he picks up four or five points after today’s win, he’s still not going to make it, unless many horses drop out,” he said in reference to Tiger Roar’s 29th position in the order of entry.
“It’s a pity as I saw there are a lot of sprinters ahead of him on the list. Tiger Roar will definitely run out a strong mile, he would have been a deserving runner, but rules are rules, he doesn’t qualify.”
One person who is likely to put his hand up in any race Tiger Roar contests is Kok.
Even if the alarm bells were going off early in Saturday’s race, Kok kept his wits about him, in the end timing the final assault with clockwork precision.
“I wasn’t so confident in the early stages. There was a quicker pace than last time,” said Kok who was also in the plate at Tiger Roar’s last win.
“There was pressure coming from the outside and 50m after the start, I was struggling to follow.
“But I didn’t panic, I know I just had to balance him up and find a run. Once he got through the gap, he was very strong to the line.
“He pinged like lightning. He’s a very good horse.”
The affable young rider, who also rode Tiger Roar to a second place at his first sit on him, has certainly done his chances of partnering another Falcon Stable big-race winner no harm.
Last November, he captured his first Group 1 win aboard Big Hearted for the powerful Thai outfit in the Singapore Gold Cup (2000m).
The disappointments of the race were Heartening Flyer (11th) and Sun Power (last), especially from a Singapore Derby perspective.
Stewards were informed before the race that Heartening Flyer, a Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) hopeful on July 25, would be ridden cold from the wide alley (12), but the Excelebration four-year-old never made much headway from the rear to finish around eight lengths off the winner.
A runner-up to So Si Bon in the Group 3 Eclipse Stakes (1800m) when racing as Power Scheme for the Sun Bloodstock group and the Hayes training partnership, Sun Power was never in the hunt before he was eased to a canter by jockey Danny Beasley to finish a long last. It is a poor performance that has put a huge dent to his Singapore Derby aspirations.
In his defence, the Desmond Koh-trained Fiorente four-year-old probably needed the run and should be reassessed over a more suitable trip.