Minister gets the memo he needs to buck up

After Minister finished a distant fifth at his last start, trainer Donna Logan thought it was high time to tighten the screws on the “bludger”.

Granted, the seven furlongs of the Kranji Stakes A race on August 22 was short of the Kranji Mile winner’s best, but the Kiwi handler still didn’t quite warm to his rather indifferent run, especially with the $300,000 Group 1 Raffles Cup (1600m) around the corner on September 18.

A plain first-up run (sixth in an even shorter 1200m Kranji Stakes A race three weeks earlier) after the Kranji Mile is excusable, but not so the next time in.

A'Isisuhairi Kasim brings Minister back to scales after his barrier trial on Thursday (photo by Nicholas Child).

Parked in an ideal spot in third on the fence by regular partner A’Isisuhairi ‘Harry’ Kasim, instead of putting in the big bounds as he usually does when called upon, the US-bred five-year-old was tapped for toe when the horses in front of him skipped clear inside the last 400m.

The winner Lim’s Lightning – and likely Raffles Cup favourite – went whoosh past race-leader Fame Star under hands-and-heels riding while Minister dropped out, beaten more than 10 lengths for arguably the former Listed Windsor Mile winner’s (when known as Bye Bye Hong Kong for leading trainer Andrew Balding) worst run in 14 starts in Singapore, including the first 10 for ex-Kranji trainer Lee Freedman for whom he won three in a row.

Logan knew there and then King Power’s four-time Kranji winner (1400m to 1600m) had “had them on”. The multiple-Group 1 winning trainer on both sides of the Tasman Sea was not pressing the panic button, but she had some work on her plate if she wanted to add a second local Group 1 on her CV.

“He showed me in that race he was underdone and it was time to get serious with him,” she said after Minister’s second place to Nepean in a barrier trial on Thursday.

“The race actually showed how much he had thrived, and he’s a bludger, he was having Harry on. I told Harry it wasn’t his fault, but he shouldn’t let the horse get the better of him.

“It was time to turn up the heat. I’ve stepped up on his work, and he won a nice trial (ahead of The Shadow) last Thursday.

“But I still thought he was thriving, he hasn’t dropped any weight and really needed another trial. That’s why he came out for another one today.

“For a horse like him to get a mile, it takes a bit of work to get there. He’d gain weight so rapidly if you can’t get on top of him.

“We just have to keep him more focused and fit. I’m really happy where he’s at now.”

Logan said the two barrier trials have been instrumental in topping Minister off to the desired level, but the Raffles Cup itself might not be the cup that runneth over.

“He’s not suited to Polytrack and we weren’t worried about him winning the trials. We just wanted to make sure he was as comfortable as he could be, without giving him a gut-buster,” she said.

“Harry was quite pleased with him as well. He said he felt very well and was fitter than at his last run.

“I will give him a grass gallop, maybe with Super Dynasty, next Tuesday to bring him on further, just like he did before the Kranji Mile.

“But the Raffles Cup is not his race. Lim’s Lightning will be hard to pull back.

“Our race is the QEII Cup (Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup over 1800m on October 16). That’s when he’ll have his best chance.

“The (Group 1) Singapore Gold Cup (2000m on November 14) is still on his radar as we’d like to go for all three, but it’s very different as it’s a handicap race, it’ll be tougher for him at the weights. We’ll see.”

The Raffles Cup, QEII Cup and Singapore Gold Cup used to be the three Legs of the Singapore Triple Crown series until last year. They are this year run in the same order as standalone events, but remain highly coveted for their prestige, especially the latter with its $1 million purse left untouched.

Super Dynasty was also in Thursday’s barrier trial in which the Fastnet Rock grey ran on well for fifth, 2 ¼-length behind for Logan’s apprentice jockey Yusoff Fadzli.

The seven-year-old who looks whiter than grey these days has yet to flatter in three starts for Logan (including a last place in that race Lim’s Lightning won on August 22) since also arriving from Freedman (seven wins including the Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes over the Polytrack mile), but his new handler doesn’t despair to see the Number One Stable-owned galloper shine again.

“Super Dynasty is getting better. It was a nice trial from him today, he ran on nicely,” said Logan.

“He will run in a Class 3 mile race on Raffles Cup day.”