There are plenty of similarities when comparing the two main chances – Lim’s Lightning and Lim’s Kosciuszko – heading into Saturday’s $1 million Group 1 Kranji Mile.
Some of the more obvious ones include the same first name – ergo the same owner in Mr Lim Siah Mong of the powerful Lim’s Stable - the same trainer (Daniel Meagher) and that both sit at the top end of the race ratings with only Katak (102) separating the pair.
But according to their trainer, they could not be any more different away from the tracks.
Reigning Horse of the Year Lim's Lightning is the highest-rated contender in the Group 1 Kranji Mile on Saturday, picture Singapore Turf Club
“They are polar opposites at home (stables),” said Meagher from trackwork on Thursday.
“Lim’s Lightning is very difficult to train and we have to really watch him from the moment he steps out of his stall and Kosi (Lim’s Kosciuszko), well, he has a great demeanour and is a pleasure to be around.”
Oddly, given the wealth of experienced horsemen – jockey Danny Beasley and Lim’s Stable manager, Mick Dittman to name but two - that he has at his disposal, Meagher credits one of his less-experienced workers, Fahmi Rosman, with turning Lim’s Lightning around when he arrived at his stable.
“Reports on the horse when he came back from Australia from my brother (trainer Chris Meagher) weren’t great,” explained Meagher.
“He said his attitude was bad, he was a nightmare to work with and when he got here, I agreed with him.”
But a few gear changes and a relationship with the young track rider Fahmi, who had also received his apprentice jockey's licence at the end of November last year, soon turned things around.
“Dan and I decided to put a special bit on him – a muzzle net that goes over his nose and mouth – to try to take his mind off being a handful and that seemed to help,” continued Meagher, who currently sits sixth on the trainers’ premiership with 16 winners in 2022.
“But Fahmi rides him in work every day and has a really good relationship with him. He seems to be able to get the best out of him.
“So much so that he looks after him in the morning and afternoon at the stables as well and his connection with Lim’s Lightning - and his hard work - has made all the difference.”
High praise indeed from the young Australian handler but definitely warranted given Lim’s Lightning – who jumps from barrier four on Saturday - was crowned Singapore’s Horse of the Year in 2021 after winning six from his seven starts in that season, including three at Group 1 level.
One unplaced run in 2022 – the first time he has finished outside the top two placings since being transferred to Meagher after his disappointing Australian campaign – does not faze the father of two beautiful children in Caiden (seven) and Harper (four).
“He owes us nothing so I’m happy with whatever he does, but that run (Class 1 over 1400m on April 30) was at handicap conditions and he was always going to improve heading into this race.
“And obviously given his rating (112), the weight-for-age suits him and we will see his best on Saturday.”
Lim's Kosciuszko (Danny Beasley) seen here winning on debut on March 20 last year, picture Singapore Turf Club
Meagher was equally bullish of Lim’s Kosciuszko’s - who drew barrier eight - chances come 4.30pm on Saturday.
“He’s been a revelation this horse, he will go very close,” said Meagher.
“When he arrived at the stables, he was a typical Kiwi type – a tough little horse – but he was workman-like at best when we started working him on the track.
“But once Danny got on him at the trials, he was a different horse and we thought ‘hello, we may have something here’ and when he trialled well again, we knew he was going to be a good horse.”
A good horse indeed – he won at handsome odds ($100) on debut - but not many would have thought he would win eight-in-a-row before tasting defeat for the first time at his most recent run in the Class 1 race (1400m) on April 30.
“He hasn’t changed, he goes about his business the same as when he arrived but as I said, when he gets to the trials and races, he’s a different beast,” continued Meagher.
“I thought he was home last start and he gets some weight (3.5kgs) on the winner so there’s no reason he can’t win at this level.
“He deserves it.”
Can (or will) Meagher – son of Melbourne Cup-winning trainer, John Meagher – spilt the two on their winning chances come Saturday?
“No, I’m not going to do that,” laughed Meagher.
“I’m proud of them both and that won’t change whatever the result.”
In somewhat of an about-turn - but one with plenty of logic involved - Wong Chin Chuen will ride Lim’s Lightning and Beasley steers Lim’s Kosciuszko on Saturday in what is the first Group 1 race of the season.
“It was a collective decision,” explained Meagher.
“We thought the way the race will be run, Lim’s Lightning will probably be ridden quieter than (Lim’s) Kosciuszko and CC (Chin Chuen) has won on him before when ridden that way.
“And there’s not many better jockeys than Dan and he will make sure Lim’s Kosciuszko gets every chance on the pace as that can get tricky early on in races.”
A terrific insight into the thought process of what goes on behind the scenes with Meagher and connections, leaving no stone unturned in their quest for more Group 1 success.
May the best horse win.