The David Kok-trained Smart Star carried the famous yellow and blue striped silks of local outfit Smart Bet Stable to victory in the $50,000 Class 4 race (2000m) at Kranji on Saturday.
The connection’s claim to fame was through their outstanding stayer Smart Bet, who beat his rivals to claim the 2002 Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup, which was ran over 2200m then.
Owned by Mr Lim Chong Sam, the stable currently has three gallopers, namely Smart Star, Smart One and Smart Era, in training with Kok and two others (Smart Racer and Smart Investment) in Malaysia with trainer Charles Leck.
Smart Star (Amirul Ismadi) makes winning look easy in Race 6, picture Singapore Turf Club
Smart Star was the first to salute among the trio in Singapore and Kok was pleased to see Mr Lim back in the winner’s circle.
“I’m very happy for Mr Lim,” said the Singaporean conditioner.
“I think that was his first win in Singapore after some time. He supported me and to win with such famous colours is a big thrill.
“Hopefully, we can find a similar race to this one and go again while he (Smart Star) is in form.”
In a relatively small but open field of eight, Smart Star jumped at the generous price of $74. After two eye-catching runs over shorter journeys, Smart Star just missed the podium finish at his most recent start over 1800m in a similar race on 14 October.
This time, he carried only 51kgs and jumped from barrier one under jockey Amirul Ismadi.
As expected, King of Sixty-One (Jamil Sarwi) was sent out as the $14 favourite and after jumping nicely from barrier two, he led the field into the first corner with Roda Robot (Ronnie Stewart) and Fighter (Koh Teck Huat) for company.
Meanwhile, Amirul settled Smart Star one-back on the rails. When the pace slackened noticeably at the 1300m mark, the five-year-old son of Star Witness had to be restrained off heels on numerous occasions, losing momentum but not his position in the backstraight.
When King Of Sixty-One eventually put the pace back on out front at the 600m, it was Smart Star who looked to be the beneficiary getting a nice run behind the leader into the straight, while most of the other on-pace runners were battling to stay in touch.
When Amirul brought Smart Star off the rails at the 300m to make his move on the leader, he looked the biggest threat, although Winning Stride (Manoel Nunes) was the other one who also made more significant ground from the chasing pack.
Smart Star took the lead at the 200m and he looked to be full of running, but not many saw that good turn of foot coming, which increased the margin to three lengths in a matter of strides before being eased late by three-and-a-half lengths over Winning Stride, who edged out Top Field (Bruno Queiroz) by a neck.
Kok was surprised by the ease of the win, but not the result itself.
“I suspected he would run well, but not to win that easily,” said Kok.
“He had a lightweight (51kgs) and a good preparation, so we expected him to finish in the top three. He was knocking on the door in his previous runs but he really showed something in the last 200m.
“He needed the blinkers on to keep his mind on the job. I was concerned when he was overracing early, but Amirul did a good job to keep his (Smart Star’s) rhythm.
“He’s (Amirul) a good worker, quiet and follows instructions. Good for him to win.”
The win brought up a milestone for Amirul as Smart Star brought up his 100th win in Singapore and Malaysia, but he was also concerned with the early slow pace.
“He overraced a few times because I didn’t expect the pace to be that slow,” said the Malaysian hoop, who started riding in Malaysia 10 years ago.
“We had a good draw and he’s a lightweight chance, so to take a sit behind the first two (King Of Sixty-One and Fighter) was the best choice.
“Coming into the straight, he had a good turn of foot and he was great. I have been working with him (Smart Star) for a month now, so it was good to win on him.”
The winning time was 2 min 0.6secs for the 2000m on the Short Course and Smart Star’s first win in nine starts took his prizemoney to a tick over $30,000 for connections.