THIS year’s $3 million Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup over 2000m on May 22 has brought together possibly the strongest line-up in the race’s short history.
The depth and quality of the overseas runners is highlighted by the fact that the first four horses home in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free on Dubai World Cup night on March 26 are among those contesting Singapore’s signature event.
River Jetez seeks international fame! (Andrew Watkins).
Throw in two outstanding Hong Kong gallopers and some strong French support and the race shapes as an intriguing contest.
And attracting just as much attention is the running of the $1 million Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint over 1200m.
Now a part of the Global Sprint Challenge, the KrisFlyer is the third leg of the series and it sees local champion ROCKET MAN out to atone for his defeat in the last two runnings of the race at the hands of SACRED KINGDOM and GREEN BIRDIE who are back again this year.
SINGAPORE AIRLINES INTERNATIONAL CUP
Outstanding galloper PRESVIS returns for his third attempt at winning the SIA Cup after being an unlucky runner at his last two attempts.
The Luca Cumani-trained gelding was a fast-finishing second to Gloria De Campeao in 2009 before striking trouble when fifth to Lizard’s Desire in last year’s race.
Presvis won the Dubai Duty Free before a lack of pace in the Group 1 BMW Champions Mile at Sha Tin in Hong Kong on April 25 contributed to his defeat.
Classy South African mare RIVER JETEZ showed outstanding form in Dubai during the carnival there, winding it up with a three-quarter length second to Presvis in the Dubai Duty Free.
The Mike De Kock-trained mare then travelled to Hong Kong where she finished best of the international runners in sixth place behind Ambitious Dragon in the Group 1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup over 2000m at Sha Tin on May 1.
WIGMORE HALL, from the UK stables of Michael Bell at Newmarket, is a well travelled galloper who also campaigned in Dubai during the carnival finishing third behind Presvis and River Jetez before also heading to Hong Kong, finishing 11th in the QEII Cup.
The French-trained entire ROYAL BENCH rounds out the Dubai Duty Free quartet of placegetters. Trained by Robert Collet, the four-year-old was first-up after a three month break when seen in Dubai before heading to Hong Kong where he contested the Champions Mile, finishing four lengths from the winner Xtension.
CHINCHON, also from France, finally makes his way to Singapore. He missed the race last year after disappointing trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias in a lead-up race.
This year the six-year-old has been kept fresh, having not raced since finishing fifth behind Rewilding in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic over 2400m on March 26.
Herman Brown, who won the 2008 edition of the SIA Cup with Jay Peg, returns this year with stable newcomer GITANO HERNANDO.
After finishing sixth in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup over 2000m on March 26, Gitano Hernando was transferred to Brown’s care for his trip to Hong Kong where he ran unplaced but only 3.5 lengths from Ambitious Dragon in the QEII Cup.
Perennial visitor Godolphin is back again this year with CALVADOS BLUES who is trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni. The five-year-old entire has not raced since finishing third behind stablemate Rewilding in the Dubai Sheema Classic.
Rounding out the international runners for the SIA Cup are the Hong Kong gallopers CALIFORNIA MEMORY and IRIAN.
Trained by Tony Cruz and John Moore respectively, the pair recently contested the QEII Cup at Sha Tin, finishing second and fourth behind Ambitious Dragon.
Four local gallopers will take on the overseas contingent.
WAIKATO, who ran the race of his life in finishing fourth behind Lizard’s Desire in last year’s race, is back again flying the flag for six-time premiership winning trainer Laurie Laxon.
Group 1 Longines Singapore Gold Cup winner RISKY BUSINESS represents last year’s premiership winning trainer Steven Burridge.
Risky Business and Waikato finished third and fourth respectively behind another SIA Cup entrant FATKID in the Group 2 Queen Elizabeth II Cup over 2000m on April 29.
Fatkid, trained by Tan Hor Khoon, has proved somewhat of a giant killer on the domestic scene in recent months having won his only two starts over the 2000m course, the other being the Group 3 Fortune Bowl in February.
Rounding out the local contenders is the honest five-year-old mare NEW ROSE WOOD for Desmond Koh.
New Rose Wood has two Group 1 second placings to her credit, including finishing three-quarters-of-a-length behind Race Ahead in last year’s Singapore Derby.
KRISFLYER INTERNATIONAL SPRINT
Singapore will be hoping it is third time lucky for ROCKET MAN in this year’s KrisFlyer but the champion sprinter will have to contend with the two horses that have beaten him in the past two years.
Hong Kong sprinters SACRED KINGDOM – the winner in 2009 – and GREEN BIRDIE – who upset Rocket Man last year – are set to return and will be looking to add another trophy to the Hong Kong cabinet.
Sacred Kingdom was forced to miss last year’s KrisFlyer when a bout of colic almost claimed his life, but he has returned to top form and was an unlucky second behind Multiglory at his most recent outing in the Group 2 Sprint Cup over 1200m on May 1.
Green Birdie has been winless since his KrisFlyer victory last year and has not raced since finishing fourth behind Rocket Man in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen over 1200m on March 26. The Caspar Fownes-trained gelding raced in Dubai after plans to contest the Group 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen were shelved.
Rounding out the international contingent is the UAE sprinter, HAPPY DUBAI who finished in a midfield position in the Group 2 Al Quoz Sprint over 1000m on March 26 at his latest start which followed three wins and a fifth placing at his four previous attempts at Meydan.
Local champion Rocket Man finally secured his first International Group 1 victory when he took out the Dubai Golden Shaheen and has returned to Singapore in outstanding form, capturing his third straight Group 1 Lion City Cup over 1200m on May 1, which many claim to be his finest victory.
Prepared by Michael Freedman, BETTER BE THE ONE followed Rocket Man to Dubai in March where he ran class sprinters J J The Jet Plane and War Artist to a narrow third placing in the Al Quoz Sprint before returning to Singapore, finishing a brave second to Rocket Man in the Lion City Cup at his most recent outing.
GHOZI, was tried as a stayer last year by John O’Hara but has been restricted to a sprint campaign this time around. He captured the second leg of the Singapore Sprint Series, the Group 3 Kranji Sprint over 1200m on April 10 before running on gamely for third, beaten seven-and-a-half lengths behind Rocket Man in the Lion City Cup.
Don Baertschiger’s evergreen sprinter CAPABLANCA will be lining up for his third run in the KrisFlyer. He ran sixth behind Takeover Target in 2008 before finishing fifth to Sacred Kingdom in 2009. He was a last-start fourth to Rocket Man in the Lion City Cup.
Desmond Koh has ECLAIR FASTPASS preparing for his first Group 1 assignment. It was 12 months ago on SIA Cup night that the gelding stamped his potential with an easy eight length victory and he has since shown some outstanding form, including a last-start unlucky second to Ghozi in the Kranji Sprint.
Rounding out the local representation are consistent sprinters POWERFUL RULER, AMADEUS MOZART and PERFECT PINS.