Sun Marshal, Freedman and Azzopardi win the Singapore Derby

The Singapore Turf Club held one of its signature meetings on Sunday with S$1 million (S) Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) the feature at Kranji.

Sun Marshal (Joseph Azzopardi) fends off the fast-finishing Mr Clint (Bernardo Pinheiro) to take out the Group 1 Singapore Derby, picture Singapore Turf Club
Sun Marshal (Joseph Azzopardi) fends off the fast-finishing Mr Clint (Bernardo Pinheiro) to take out the Group 1 Singapore Derby, picture Singapore Turf Club

The outcome was a win for the Lee Freedman trained outsider Sun Marshall (AUS) to give Freedman his 12th Derby win overall, and young Perth jockey Joseph Azzopardi his first and his first Group 1 win.

Going into the race, Sun Marshal was probably rated as Freedman’s second-or-third-best chance after Circuit Mission and Heliosphere from his quintet of runners that also featured Mr Clint and Super Dynasty - to hand the Australian Hall of Fame trainer a first Singapore Derby since he moved over in 2017.

Sun Marshal not only stretched Freedman’s Derby record further, but pulled it off with a surprisingly reinvigorated Mr Clint (NZ) (Power) and Bernardo Pinheiro)a neck away in second for a Freedman quinella for good measure.

King Louis (Medgalia d’Oro) was second with the margin 1 1/2L.

When the heavens opened a couple of hours before the race, and the track subsequently turned sticky, a new element was flung into the equation for the previously even field, but Azzopardi would not be bogged down by such uncertainties, dispelling them with a masterpiece of a ride that steered the Sepoy four-year-old gelding towards first prizemoney of the million-dollar race.

Always in the first half but three wide, Sun Marshal, who is out of Fantastic Light mare Mysterious Light, was among the few contenders who seemed to not resent the downgraded track, held comfortably together by Azzopardi throughout, while stablemate Circuit Mission (Michael Rodd) spearheaded the race, as half-expected from barrier one.

As the field approached the home turn, those who had tried to stay in touch with the lead were already flat out and paddling away. Among the better-fancied ones, Eye Guy (Ben Melham) and Quarter Back (Vlad Duric) were the first to show the white flag.

It was Sun Marshal, who after being manoeuvred out into the clear on the outer by Azzopardi upon straightening, who was literally sailing home the best.

Freedman’s first Singapore Group 1 winner Mr Clint (in last year’s Singapore Guineas) suddenly recaptured his three-year-old form as he sprouted wings from near-last to just miss out by a neck a feat that would have sent trivia buffs into overdrive – eight years ago, Clint (also raced by the Oscar Racing Stable, ridden by John Powell and trained by Cliff Brown) won the then Emirates-sponsored Singapore Derby.

King Louis, ridden by Perth ace William Pike, the Ricardo Le Grange-trained son of Medaglia d’Oro fleetingly loomed as a threat, but Sun Marshal proved just a touch too good on the day. He finished third another 1 ¼ lengths away with the winner clocking 1min 49.1secs for the 1800m on the Long Course.

“I thought his form was solid when he came to me. He ran second in the (Group 3) Grand Prix (2200m at Doomben in 2018), and ran very well first-up,” said Freedman.

“He improved after I gave him a month’s break. He was very fit, but I didn’t know how he would handle the ground today.

“But I have to say a lot of the horses’ chances were ruined by the ground, and some of them improved on it.

“It feels unbelievable. I’ve just won my first Derby and my first Group 1 all in one hit,” said Azzopardi.