Tan's cheap buy Khao Manee by a whisker

Trainer Jerome Tan was as cool as a cucumber when the “Objection” sign flashed on the semaphore board at Kranji on Sunday – later emerging from the lengthy 15-minute inquiry with an even broader winning smile.

Jockey Vlad Duric on runner-up Great Expectation fired in a protest against Tan’s nose-winner and $508 bolter Khao Manee (Wong Chin Chuen) for alleged interference in the $75,000 Sun Marshal 2019 Stakes, a Restricted Maiden race over the mile.

Not in the concluding stages as some might have inferred from the blanket finish which had less than half-a-length covering the first to the fifth runner past the post, but shortly after the start where Great Expectation took the brunt of a bit of squeezing.

Khao Manee (Wong Chin Chuen, red winkers) gets up for a narrow win in Race 2, picture Singapore Turf Club

As atypical as an objection lodged at such an early stage of a race was, Duric was entitled to believe he had grounds for a hearing, especially when taking into account the narrow margin at the other end of the race, but Tan still walked into the Stewards’ room with supreme confidence the result would stand.

“I was not worried at all. They had 1599 metres to catch us, and besides it’s Marc’s (Lerner) horse (Con Speranza) who shifted out onto us,” said Tan.

From the head-on camera, Con Speranza, who drew 11, jumped outwards, triggering a concertina effect where Khao Manee, who broke from 12, rolled out onto Great Expectation (in 13), who was cramped for room as he got squashed between Khao Manee and Alexander (Matthew Kellady in 14).

Great Expectation definitely came off the worst from the scrimmage, but Stewards were on the same page as Tan – the interference was insufficient to materially affect the result of the race. The “All Clear” was given with no change to the quinella, Khao Manee, who is named after a rare cat breed from Thailand, getting the cream by a whisker, with Con Speranza third another short head away. The winning time was 1min 36.52secs for the 1600m on the Long Course.

While Khao Manee scored at the longest odds for the year, Tan said the win didn’t really come as a surprise to him, having even put his money where his mouth was.

“This horse can stay all day. He’s looking for 2000m but there aren’t many 2000m races here, so we ran him over the mile instead and it’s worked out well,” said the Singaporean handler.

“We thought the wide draw ruined our chances, but Jimmy (Wong) timed his run very well. The odds were too good not to have a little something on as well!”

Regardless of the outlay Tan had on the Remind three-year-old, the $40,000 stakes earnings for the winner’s cut is already a nice windfall to his bargain basement price tag of NZ$5,000.

Khao Manee is part of a bunch of horses Tan bought on the cheap at the New Zealand Yearling Sale two years ago, with Amazing Breeze (NZ$6,000) the first to bring a return on the astute trainer’s investment back in June, incidentally for the same Applause Racing Stable.

The other two three-year-olds are Classic Thirtysix (also by Remind) and Master Player, who made his Kranji debut on July 10 without really flattering (sixth to Renzo), but the son of Tiger Prawn is the one Tan thinks may well hit the jackpot one day.

“I got them at the New Zealand yearling sale. I didn’t go with the breeding, I just went with the conformation, and they all looked nice,” said Tan.

“Of the four, it’s Master Player, who has always been the most forward. I’m sure he’ll improve from his first run.”