Singapore Derby contender Only Win trialled with winkers on for the first time on Thursday, with jockey Alan Munro jumping off saying the test was conclusive.
The American-bred four-year-old was actually one of the best away, even taking up a handier spot than usual in third on the rails early.
But as Constant Justice sped up a touch upfront, Only Win maintained the same steady pace to eventually finish sixth to the ridden-out Captain Jamie (Nooresh Juglall). A new class record was clearly not what Munro was after.
Only Win (Alan Munro) will be fitted with winkers in the Emirates Singapore Derby, picture Singapore Turf Club
“He has been a bit reluctant in his races. I had to encourage him right through,” said the veteran rider who won the Singapore Derby with Better Life in 2013, as well as the Epsom Derby with Generous in 1991.
“The purpose of the winkers today was to get him to be on the bit. It worked as he was very responsive.
“The horse is well and I hope he goes the same way next week. Good luck to him.”
Only Win is one of two Michael Clements horses running in the third Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge, the $1.15 million Emirates Singapore Derby (1800m) on July 15, the other one being big-race stalwart Countofmontecristo.
While neither really set hearts racing in the first two Legs, the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1400m) and the Group 1 Giovanni Racing Charity Bowl (1600m), they will still press on towards the grand final with legitimate chances.
Interestingly, former Singapore Three-Year-Old champion and proven elite performer Countofmontecristo was always the blue-eyed boy of the two, but after two fifths in the first two Legs, his stocks have dipped, so much so the unheralded Only Win may well have taken over as the torchbearer.
The son of Tribal Rule is not exactly bombproof either. He was seen not travelling too kindly in the early stages in both Legs, but still produced his customary late dash to finish right on the heels of the placegetters.
The three-time winner (1200m, 1400m and 1600m) picked up sixth and fourth places in the first and second Leg respectively, which were both won by Elite Invincible.
On those two performances, Clements was warming up to Only Win’s chances – provided he shows more get-up-and-go in the initial stages.
“He has not been really focused at his last few runs. We have been tossing up between winkers and blinkers,” said Clements.
“We went with winkers in the end, and he looked better out there today, he travelled so much better. I spoke with Alan and he will definitely wear them in the Derby.
“Alan told me he had to really encourage him the whole way in his races, but he still finished it off well. What we want is him to go through with it early and still has a kick left in him.”
Clements said that Countofmontecristo has pulled up in good shape after his Charity Bowl race, but at this stage, he would be walking into his gate riderless. A jockey has yet to be booked.
The son of Echoes Of Heaven has had eight jockeys in 15 starts, with Glen Boss the most successful having ridden at five of his seven wins. Ryan Curatolo was the last partner in the Charity Bowl, but the French jockey has already made prior commitments to ride the Mark Walker-trained Lim’s Regard in the Derby.
“We are still looking. We’ll reach a decision soon,” said Clements.