Craig Williams and Mr Clint winning the Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup, picture Singapore Turf Club
Champion trainer Lee Freedman was certainly well inspired in flying in Australia’s current jockey with the Midas touch for the golden assignment. On Tuesday, Williams won the race that stops his nation, the Group 1 Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington with the Danny O’Brien-trained Vow And Declare at his 15th attempt.
Five days later, the 42-year-old Victorian rider was winning a second Singapore Gold Cup, the island nation’s equivalent of the Melbourne Cup by virtue of its rich history as a handicap staying race, albeit its distance was shortened from 2200m to 2000m last year.
Williams captured Singapore’s time-honoured race for the first time in 2016 with the Stephen Gray-trained Bahana.
It was precisely in the second Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series, of which the Singapore Gold Cup is the third Leg, the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m) that Mr Clint put in a “downer” which did cast some doubts about his chances, but Williams was quickly sold.
“I was actually in talks to ride Mr Clint in the second Leg, but they said they were committed to a jockey (Bernardo Pinheiro) which was fair enough,” said Williams.
“Then, Lee approached me for the ride in the Gold Cup. Lee was very confident he would run well even if his last run was so-so.
“I now have two wins from three rides in the Gold Cup. I finished out of the placings with the third (Sky Rocket, seventh last year), but this is special, and the jockey’s trophy is so big, we don’t get such big trophies for jockeys back home!”
“It’s quite something to come back and win the Gold Cup again, the same week I won the Melbourne Cup,” said the affable jockey.
Freedman, who was at his first Singapore Gold Cup success, said such a masterclass ride from a world-class jockey like Williams made all the difference when the stakes are higher.
“It’s been a good week, I was at the Melbourne Cup and saw Craig win and he’s now won the Gold Cup for me here. It’s most incredible,” said the 2018 Singapore champion trainer," said Freedman.
From barrier No 4, Williams had little trouble jockeying for the position that they wanted in the first half of the race, and the rest was poetry in motion.
Settling midfield in between runners, they kept close tabs on I’m Incredible on their inside while last year’s Gold Cup winner Elite Invincible (Juan Paul van der Merwe) led at a steady tempo after spearing over from his wide gate in a bid to replicate his winning effort from a year ago.
At the 800m, when Duric launched I’m Incredible on a searching run to take closer order and collar Elite Invincible at the top of the straight, Williams followed suit, tacking on Duric like his shadow. They had to course out even wider as they rolled forward, in the process keeping Sacred Croix (Benny Woodworth) tightened for room before the home turn, but the big strides were ominously fluent.
The Kranji crowd was up on their feet. The bunched-up field was packing up, but they had just witnessed the winning move in the all-yellow and blue spotted silks.
While a rails-hugging Williams had to use all of his guile to extract the best out of Vow And Declare to beat off a horde of international blue-blooded rivals in a driving blanket finish to the Lexus Melbourne Cup, he just had to nurse Mr Clint to the line once they hit the front in the last 400m of the Singapore Gold Cup.
Gold Strike (Barend Vorster) and Countofmontecristo (Daniel Moor) let down with the quickest sectionals inside the last 400m, but they had come from well back and as hard as they tried, Mr Clint had one furlong earlier stolen a march which proved unassailable in the end.
Clearly the real staying act in this year’s Singapore Gold Cup renewal, Mr Clint crossed the line first with three-quarter length to spare from the surprising Gold Strike with Countofmontecristo a gallant third another half-length away. The winning time was a moderate 2mins 1.02secs for the 2000m on the Short Course.
This year’s trophy was collected by John Laxon, the youngest of the four sons of nine-time Singapore champion trainer Laurie Laxon who bought the five-year-old son of Power at the New Zealand Ready-To-Run sale and even took him through his first paces at the barrier trials before handing him to Freedman when he retired in August 2017.
The Singapore Gold Cup was the second Group 1 race Mr Clint was adding to his resume as he also claimed the Singapore Guineas (1600m) last year to give Freedman his first Group 1 hurrah in Singapore. He was incidentally ridden by another international Australian jockey in Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton.
With that fifth win from 23 starts, along with earnings from five seconds and three thirds, Mr Clint has seen his prizemoney snowball past the S$1.8 million mark for the Oscar Racing Stable.