Singapore Turf Club
Trainer Michael Clements is hoping to race the back-in-form Song To The Moon in the Keeneland Korea Cup in Seoul on September 9.
The South Korean 1800m feature race will be at its third edition alongside the sister sprint race, the Keeneland Korea Sprint (1200m), formerly known as the Asia Challenge Cup and sensationally captured by Singapore’s very own El Padrino in 2014.
Singapore has gone back for another bite at the cherry in ensuing years. El Padrino ran a brave second for trainer Alwin Tan in his back-to-back bid in 2015, but the subsequent results have been far less scintillating.
Song To The Moon (Nooresh Juglall) gets his spark back at his last run.
Smart horses from the top draw have gone, like Super Winner or Infantry, but they all finished down the track, with most pointing the finger at the deep sand of the LetsRun Park racecourse. Last year’s sole rep, James Peters’ Wimbledon could not buck the trend either.
Clements has never charted the Korean path – or any overseas path for that matter (he came close for his first travelling experience in 2016 but Kiwi Karma’s Dubai trip was aborted because of a Strangles ban on Singapore horses) – but the Zimbabwean-born handler was quick to put his hand up to be the next one to have a crack at Korea’s famous sand track – or infamous, depending on which side of the ‘love-it or hate-it’ divide you are on.
“I know the record has not been so good for Singapore horses in recent years, but I’m still keen to run Song To The Moon there – if he gets invited,” he said.
“Of course, I’ve heard about the sand track, but Song To The Moon is a one-paced horse and I think it will suit him. He won on Polytrack once with 59kgs on his back, it was last year when Ricardo (Le Grange) had him.
“The race is worth close to $1.2 million which is good money for sure. I guess the Japanese and the US would be keen, so it’ll be a tough race to get in depending on the ratings of the horses who get invited.
“The closing date is August 10. I will be entering him today, and let’s see how it goes.”
Clements has unsurprisingly booked Juglall for the ride should the Koreans send an invite. The Mauritian jockey has ridden the New Zealand-bred five-year-old by Savabeel at 17 of his 26 starts for all his six wins, the latest coming on July 1, ending a barren run that stretches back to more than 17 months ago.
The formidable duo will get a chance to frank that form resurrection in this Friday’s $100,000 Kranji Stakes B race over 2000m in which Clements also saddles last-start winner Arhat and McGregor, a novice over the trip. The trio is being set upon an ambitious gold trail towards the Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) on November 11.
He actually has a few more options waiting in the wings for an embarrassment of riches that any trainer would dream of having in the time-honoured race.
“I’ve also got Only Win heading in the same direction as those three, and maybe Countofmontecristo,” said Clements.
“Only Win ran a huge race in the Derby (fourth to Jupiter Gold on July 15), but it’s still some time away, and on the day itself, I may not have that many runners!
“But the three running this Friday are all in good shape and that run will give me a better idea where they are at.”
Clements is hoping for nothing less than a forward run from all, especially from the one who would give wings to his prospects of a first international raid.
“Song To The Moon has maintained his form and condition since his last-start win (in a Class 2 race over 1800m),” he said.
“Juglall gets on well with him and was able to produce his magic on him again. I think getting him back up in distance also did the trick.
“The pace was too strong at his previous runs. It was a slower-paced race at his last start and he was able to track up.
“He is heavily-weighted (58kgs) on Friday, but he’s in the zone at the moment and the trip is right up his street.”
He is not ruling out the possibility of either of Song To The Moon’s two stablemates popping up instead.
“Arhat is in a similar boat as Song To The Moon. He won at his last start, albeit in a lower class, but I’ve always had a lot of faith in this horse,” he said of the five-time winner (1600m to 2000m) by Iffraaj.
“He also needs more ground but he will be up in higher class this time. He has hit his top form and Vlad Duric will ride him.
“As for McGregor, it was a good last run from him (second to Magic Wand in a Kranji Stakes C race over 1600m), but he is going over 2000m for the first time.
“He was meant to run over a mile race a couple of weeks ago, I think, but it was cancelled. I thought I’d try him over 2000m and there is another mile race coming up in three weeks’ time.
“We’re throwing him in at the deep end, but he gives me the impression he can genuinely stay, even if he is by Magic Albert, who’s more about speed.
“The four-kilo claim from Simon Kok will definitely help him, too. This horse is more than capable on his day.”