Lim’s Kosciuszko survived a late scare to stretch his unbeaten streak to five wins from as many starts at Kranji on Saturday.
Even though the Kermadec four-year-old named after Australia’s highest mountain was venturing into Class 3 territory for the first time, supporters still backed him with confidence into $6 ahead of the $70,000 event over 1200m.
All looked swell when trainer Daniel Meagher’s ward took charge by leading as is his customary style, and upon straightening, nothing could have pointed to a possible collapse, as his strides still looked long and fluent as regular partner Danny Beasley increasingly pushed the throttle up.
Lim's Kosciuszko (Danny Beasley) holds off Songgong Hera (Akmazani Mazuki) to score on Saturday, picture Singapore Turf Club
If anything, a procession looked on the cards when he kicked off the home turn with a two-length break. The stalker from the get-go, Hadeer (Jerlyn Seow Poh Hui) could not keep up after the sectionals needle had relentlessly stayed within sub-12 right through.
Songgong Hera (Akmazani Mazuki) and longshot Mini Force X (Iskandar Rosman) were the next cabs off the rank, but they also seemed to have their jobs cut out against the hotpot.
The complexion of the race was, however, turned on its head when the gap suddenly narrowed at the 200m. On closer look, it was more a case of Lim’s Kosciuszko shortening up than the two chasers swooping down.
For a few heart-stopping seconds, favourite backers thought they had gone the early crow, especially as Songgong Hera, desperately ridden by his hungry apprentice jockey and urged from the stands by his very vocal trainer Richard Lim (both looking for an early break at their new Kranji career), came lunging, but the winning post came in time to save Lim’s Kosciuszko by a neck.
Mini Force X, a former dual New Zealand Group 1 winner when known as Yourdeel and who had until Saturday, mostly finished at the rear, finally lived up to his lofty reputation to earn his first local place cheque another half-length away. The winning time was 1min 9.7secs for the 1200m on turf.
Instead of worrying about the close shave, Meagher would rather focus on the merit of a young horse who is still furnishing, and who has answered the call every time the bar was raised despite his relative racing inexperience.
“It’s hard to keep such horses going through their grades. At some stage, they will have a fight on their hands,” said the Australian handler.
“He’s not the finished product yet, I can get him better. He still has some improvement in terms of his looks and fitness, and the whole aspect as a racehorse.
“He went quickly and did it on his own. Things did go straight to plan, which was, if he jumps good, to let him roll, and to take a sit if he jumps fair.
“It was also a very good ride from Danny to avoid a bit of a pressure race. He was out on his feet in the last 100, but credit to Danny, who took the bull by the horns.”
Meagher has pencilled in the Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) on August 14 as the summit for Lim’s Kosciuszko, but he will have to pick a few lead-up races along the way.
“He’ll now go to Class 2. I have spotted a couple of races in late February, but I don’t want to run him in too many races either,” he said.
“He’s a horse who puts in a lot in his races, he puts in 110% each time he goes around. I want to keep him sparingly-raced.
“We’ll see how he does and we’ll work out a plan.”
Lim’s Kosciuszko has indeed been somehow wrapped in cotton wool, given the relatively long timespan of 10 months covering his first to fifth win. At the pinnacle of his form, just after he reeled off his third win, Meagher even pulled the pin on a three-year-old campaign because of the “growing pains” he felt the young horse was going through then.
He was proven right as after two more starts following a six-month spell, the shield of invincibility has not been broken yet.