The expectations were higher in the Jason Lim camp at Crystal Dragon’s debut, but it was at his second outing that he got right on target at Kranji on Friday night.
At his first run in a Restricted Maiden race over 1200m on Polytrack on February 21, the Jimmy Creed three-year-old was heavily supported into $17 favouritism, but let his backers down with an eighth place under the guidance of Ruan Maia, with his less-fancied stablemate Takhi stealing his thunder.
Partnered by Michael Rodd this time around in the $75,000 Restricted Maiden race over 1100m, Crystal Dragon got off to a tardy getaway but quickly went vying for the lead once he recovered. He then had little trouble coming across onto the fence, where Rodd steadied up the ship.
Crystal Dragon (Michael Rodd) leads all the way to open his account in Race 3, picture Singapore Turf Club
With the chestnut enjoying a nice breather midrace, it became increasingly evident that the chasing pack would have their job cut out in the home straight.
Boom Almighty (Marc Lerner) got into the hunt at the 200m, but could only come within a length in second place. Favourite Showbound (Alysha Collett) had every conceivable chance after travelling in the slipstream of Crystal Dragon, but stayed rather one-paced at the business end to run third another 1 ¼ lengths away.
The winning time was 1min 5.37secs for the 1100m on the Polytrack.
“He was still green at his first start, he was still learning. He was also a bit slow and we decided to put blinkers on tonight,” said assistant-trainer Richard Lim.
“I think he was a bit too forward as well. Tonight, we wanted him to drop back, but because of the weather (rained earlier), we changed our minds and just told Michael to ride him where he was happy.
“He was again slow, but he quickened well to take the lead. Things worked out well in the end.”
Rodd added that the gelding still lacked maturity, but could develop into a handy customer one day.
“He was slow out, there wasn’t much pace. I had to use him up to go forward a little,” said the Australian jockey.
“I didn’t want to be too far away. I was able to let him cross, and he won a nice race.
“He’s still a baby, but he will keep improving.”
Having cost A$42,000 as a two-year-old, Crystal Dragon has already broken even on his price tag with a first paycheque of around that sum for that maiden victory for the Crystal Dragon Stable.
Friday’s race meeting had an eerily silent atmosphere at Kranji as it was the first in the history of Singapore horse racing to be run behind closed doors, an unfortunate consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak.
For a long time, Singapore racing has been riding out the storm and running its business as usual with the public in attendance coming under new health and safety controls such as temperature-taking and capped admissions at the Singapore Turf Club racecourse, but with the situation not improving, and the imposition of stricter measures by the Ministry of Health this week, it finally led to a solution which is not ideal, but which is already implemented in many racing jurisdictions around the world, and is at the end of the day better than no racing - horses running before an empty grandstand.
But the races were still telecast on the racing channels, while wagering was still available with punters able to bet remotely through their Telebet accounts from home. Hopefully, that is where the cheers would be coming from in the next weeks (when race meetings will be halved to only once a week), if not months, until the measures are lifted.