Trainer Leslie Khoo is tossing the much-improved Yaya Papaya in back at the deeper end, hoping the return to Class 3 company at Kranji will produce more sparks this time around.
The Nadeem five-year-old just reeled off a two-in-a-row with Brazilian jockey Ruan Maia up at Class 4 level, hence the logical decision to step him up in grade.
As a just-turned four-year-old back in 2018, Yaya Papaya was also on an upward spiral rising through the ranks, and taking on stiffer opposition, but after five unsuccessful runs in Class 3 races, albeit he was seldom beaten out of his ground, he was dropped back in easier class.
Yaya Papaya (Ruan Maia) claims another big scalp in Rocket Star (Vlad Duric) at his last start, picture Singapore Turf Club
It took roughly another season for him to find his way back, but judging from the way he accounted for handy sorts like Field Marshal, Rocket Star, Strong N Powerful and Implement at his last two victories, with the latter two going on to win at their next starts making the formline look good, the odds of success seem better this time, even if Khoo was still treading carefully.
“He’s back in Class 3 and it’s a strong field. He’s in good form, but we’ll see how he goes,” said the Singaporean conditioner.
“He’s back on the Polytrack, but that’s fine as he’s won twice over it. He can handle both turf and Poly, even if he’s been running more on turf lately.
“He won a good race at his last start, beating some good horses. It’s Harry (A’Isisuhairi) Kasim who will ride him this time.
“Fingers crossed, he goes all right, and a good draw would be better for him as well. Even if he has been coming from behind, it’s better if he’s more forward on the Polytrack to avoid too much kickback.”
Khoo has made a rather subdued start to the 2020 season, with winners only coming through in February. Things have improved since with two of his current haul of five wins hailing from Yaya Papaya while his current next-best performer Basilisk brought up the last win in a Class 4 race over 1200m on March 6.
Ridden by winning partner Maia, the Battle Paint five-year-old trialled under Khoo’s watchful eyes on Tuesday morning, closing in nicely for second place to Constant Justice in Trial No 3. Khoo’s second trialler Auspicious Day was unfortunately scratched after jockey Marc Lerner found him to be lame on his way to the barriers.
“Basilisk will run next month in a Class 4 race over 1600m (April 10). It’s time to step him up over a longer trip,” said Khoo, a former top jockey.
Three of Basilisk’s four wins have been over 1400m (the latest one was over 1200m) with three previous outings over the mile yielding one second as the best result.
“From the way he’s been running on, I think he should be able to handle it better this time.”