Millard eyes future with Singapore Sling ahead of Champions Mile tilt

Trainer Tony Millard and Singapore Sling after the Hong Kong Classic Cup victory. Source: HKJC

Trainer Tony Millard has his sights set on next season with Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) winner Singapore Sling, but he is still hopeful of a big effort when the four-year-old drops back to 1600m for the Group 1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin on Sunday (29 April).

Singapore Sling is the only four-year-old among the nine runners for this year’s Champions Mile. There has only been one winner from that age group in the last decade – the John Moore-trained Xtension in 2011 – while all four Classic Cup winners to run in the Champions Mile have been unplaced.

However, Millard did taste spring glory with a Classic Cup winner in Ambitious Dragon, preparing the champion to take the Group 1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m) in 2011.

“I thought he deserved his chance in here,” Millard said. “A lot of these horses have been on the go all season and he has only had five starts, so he’s got a bit of freshness on his side.”

South African import Singapore Sling, a winner of the Group 2 Dingaans (1600m) at Turffontein pre-arrival, has proven to be a solid indicator among this year’s four-year-old crop. A strong second to the John Size-trained Nothingilikemore in the Hong Kong Classic Mile in January, he then took the Hong Kong Classic Cup before another game performance when runner-up to Size’s Ping Hai Star in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) last month.

Millard had the choice between the QEII Cup and the Champions Mile for Singapore Sling, but decided that the son of Philanthropist would benefit long-term from a step back in trip.

“I have no concerns about him running out 2000m,” Millard said.

“I think he showed last start that he is capable of seeing out that trip. What I’m thinking about though is having a horse for next season. Coming back to the mile gives him a softer run to end this season, which is still his first in Hong Kong, and hopefully it is a good stepping stone to next season’s big races.”

Singapore Sling was given a testing gallop on Friday morning (20 April) on the Sha Tin turf. Working under raceday rider Chad Schofield, in tandem with Millard’s Group 3 winner Horse Of Fortune, Singapore Sling clocked 1m 11.9s for 1200m, coming home the last 400m in 22.5s.

“He’s come out of the Derby well, he’s freshened up nicely,” Millard said.

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“I’m happy with where he is a week out from the race and that was a very nice piece of work on Friday on the grass. This week, we will just keep him ticking over.”

Schofield, who rode Singapore Sling in all three Four-Year-Old Classic Series legs, was full of praise for the gallop and feels that he is on target for his biggest test yet.

“He worked strongly,” Schofield said. “It was similar to his work before the Derby, with Horse Of Fortune on the grass over about 1400m or so. He felt good, Tony’s done a great job with him.”

Millard was unequivocal about who he saw as the main danger to Singapore Sling in the HK$18 million feature.
“I think Danny Shum’s horse, Seasons Bloom, he looks the one to beat,” the trainer said.

“He’s been freshened a couple of times this season and his recent trial was very good. Still, I hope Singapore Sling can run his race.”

Seasons Bloom is one of four Group 1 winners in the Champions Mile, alongside Moore’s duo Beauty Generation and Helene Paragon and the Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Only.

Group 1-placed gallopers Western Express and Blizzard also step out, as does last-start winner Southern Legend, while lightly-raced Pingwu Spark completes the field.
The Champions Mile is one of three Group 1 features at Sha Tin on Sunday, Hong Kong’s Champions Day.

The $24 million Audemars Piguet QEII Cup sees a mouth-watering clash between Hong Kong Cup winner Time Warp, Hong Kong Derby winner Ping Hai Star, last year’s runner-up Pakistan Star and Japanese duo Al Ain and Danburite, while Godolphin saddles up a dual-continent assault on the $16 million Chairman’s Sprint Prize.

The boys in blue will send out Japanese Group 1 winner Fine Needle and English Group 1 placegetter Blue Point to tackle Hong Kong’s best sprinters, including Mr Stunning, Beat The Clock and Lucky Bubbles.

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