This time last year Singapore Sling (124lb) was in the front rank of his peers on the road to the BMW Hong Kong Derby and in the G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (27 January) the bay will aim to deliver a reminder of his talent and potential.
Trainer Tony Millard’s charge won the Four-Year-Old Classic Series’ second leg, the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), 11 months ago and bookended the three-race challenge with runner-up finishes in the Hong Kong Classic Mile and the Derby itself. Without a win in five runs since that Classic Cup score, Singapore Sling now gets his first chance to stride out again over nine furlongs.
“I think this is his distance,” Millard said, suggesting that a good run this weekend could prompt a tilt at the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup over 2000m in three weeks’ time.
“Yes, we’re looking that way because the mile is a little bit on the sharp side,” he explained. “I think the other horses in the 2000-metre division are tried and tested, it’s their distance, but it’s thin pickings and that could be a factor when we get to the backend of the season.”
Singapore Sling prepped exclusively at a mile this past autumn, running a half-length second to Beauty Generation in the G2 Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m), fourth in the G2 Jockey Club Mile and then ninth in the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile.
Karis Teetan was in opposition on each of those occasions but the Mauritian ace is looking forward to partnering the Philanthropist gelding for the first time on Sunday.
“Last time he ran into some trouble which meant that he couldn’t finish off,” he said. “He’ll want a little bit farther and I think this 1800 will give him a better chance. In the Hong Kong Mile he was up against some very good horses and he was always chasing them. This distance will help him find his momentum a bit better so he can finish off.”
Fresh for the fray
It is seven weeks since Singapore Sling’s latest race. The five-year-old has had two barrier trials since the turn of the year and the second of those saw him travel keenly under restraint, easing past the post a close third behind his upcoming rival Exultant and leading Derby candidate Dark Dream.
“He trialled encouragingly and he’s going in a little bit of a fresh horse. Some of those others have had hard races,” Millard said.
Three G1 winners head the Centenary Vase weights: the brothers Time Warp (133lb) and Glorious Forever (131lb) won one each of the past two editions of the Hong Kong Cup (2000m), while Exultant (132lb) took last month’s Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
“He’s faced good horses before,” Teetan observed. “Tony has his preparation going well and I’m very happy with the horse: he’s been trialling good recently. There are three big horses in there and they’re going to be tough to beat but he’s going in with a nice weight, so he’s going to get his chance.”
And, as Millard pointed out: “He’s the closest any horse has got to Beauty Generation this season, albeit in a handicap (receiving 16lb), and I’m certainly encouraged with the way he’s freshened up this week.”
The Centenary Vase Handicap is also set to feature last year’s victor Dinozzo (113lb), as well as Insayshable (113lb), Pingwu Spark (122lb), Romantic Touch (114lb) and Horse Of Fortune (113lb).
The highlight of Sunday’s 10-race card is the Hong Kong Classic Mile, the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series which also features the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).