SINGAPORE – Lizard’s Desire, only pipped at the highest international level in his last two starts, went one better on Sunday when he lined up against a strong field in the R16.3-million Singapore Airlines International Cup at Kranji.
The Mike de Kock-trained gelding had been beaten a whisker by Gloria de Campeao in the Dubai World Cup on the all-weather Tapeta surface at Meydan at the end of March and failed by only a neck to tag Viva Pataca in the QEII Cup on the grass at Sha Tin, Hong Kong, last month. They say third time’s the charm, and for the South African-bred gelding, it was!
A victorious Kevin Shea on Lizard’s Desire. Steven Jell (left), Ka Ming Ma and Yousuf Al Sayegh also treasured the moment.
The withdrawal of Shadow Gate at the start caused some consternation because the Japanese runner was expected to be one of the pacemakers in the race which was run in a drizzle. However, his absence was nullified by Jolie’s Shinju setting steady fractions many lengths clear of Gloria de Campaeo (7-2 third favourite). Waikato and Goldschatz disputed third place with Lahleeb on their heels. Lizard’s Desire was racing three wide with Al Shemali and Yamanin Kingly on his inside. Presvis was closer than normal, racing just behind them.
Halfway through the race, Gloria de Campeao had moved up to race just behind the pacemaker about four lengths clear of Waikato with Lizard’s Desire falling away slightly to race beside Presvis.
The field started closing on the leaders on the turn but Lizard’s Desire was still about four lengths in arrears alongside Al Shemali as Gloria de Campeao pulled abreast of the leader. He took over inside the final 300m where Lizard’s Desire still had three lengths to find, looking to be in all sorts of trouble.
The South African took off in the final 200m, though. He brushed them all aside to lead about 75m from the line and, though Gloria de Campeao tried to go with him, the 5-2 second favourite’s momentum carried him across the line 0.50 lengths clear of his French-trained rival. Al Shamali ran a game third, 1.80 lengths further back. Presvis, the 22-10 favourite who had not enjoyed a clear passage in the QEII Cup, again ran into traffic and could only finish fifth.
Lizard’s Desire will return to De Kock’s Dubai base on Wednesday. “He’s earned two months in a paddock,’’ said an “ecstatic’’ assistant trainer Stephen Jell.
Jockey Kevin Shea, who had ridden Lizard’s Desire in the Dubai World Cup, said afterwards: “My horse quickened up so easily that I knew it was just the two of us. Gloria De Campeao doesn’t lay down the towel easily but my horse flew today and deserved his win.
“Full credit to the Mike de Kock racing team, especially Stephen and Ming. They’ve had this horse ready for Dubai and Hong Kong – and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Lizard’s Desire’s work on Wednesday was phenomenal and that his sprint-up on Friday was at (world-class sprinter) Rocket Man’s pace.
“He’s come from being a handicapper to winning an international Group 1,” said Jell. “And he’s done it on different surfaces as well!
“He’s such an easy horse to travel. He is so laidback on an aeroplane – then he gets out and does his stuff.”
Lizard’s Desire’s time of 2:02.12 was nearly 3 sec slower than Gloria de Campeo cut out in winning this race last year.