2 April 2018

Aramco caps memorable Easter special for Baertschiger

Trainer Shane Baertschiger will long remember Easter 2018 as the weekend during which he cracked it for a Kranji feature double from as many such races up for grabs.

On Good Friday, Be Bee won the $250,000 Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) for the Australian handler before Aramco landed the chocolates two days later on Easter Sunday, in the $200,000 Group 3 JBBA Rocket Man Sprint (1200m).

While Be Bee, last year’s juvenile champion, was well-fancied in the first Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, not many had warmed up to the chances of the resuming Aramco in the first Leg of the Singapore Sprint Series despite his more than decent record of four wins and four placings from 11 starts, including a super third to Clarton Super in the Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m) at his last start in November. 

Baertschiger said he was a bit taken aback by the general lack of enthusiasm shown for the Magic Albert five-year-old, not only by the punters or media as reflected by his $50 quote just before the off, but also by jockeys approached for the ride.

To him, Aramco, who was known as Mawahibb in Australia (one win over 1200m at Moonee Valley) and cost Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa al Maktoum $750,000 as a yearling, was no pushover.
No doubt, Aramco has not won in a take-no-prisoners style before, but he was confident he could hold his own against smart types like former Singapore champion three-year-old Countofmontecristo, who was also resuming, and rising star Super Fortune, among the few handy sorts pitted against him in the Rocket Man Sprint.

In addition, Baertschiger felt Aramco had been working and trialling a treat - and should therefore not be left out of the calculations too hastily.

“It’s great to win the two features. I actually thought both Be Bee and Aramco had a good chance,” said Baertschiger.

“I felt Aramco was over the odds given he’s been working well and he had a light weight (50.5kgs). Three jockeys didn’t want to ride him and would be scratching their heads why now.

“The speed was on and he was a bit keen early, but once he dropped his head down, he settled a lot better.”

(From left) Stable representative Desmond Ong, apprentice jockey Wong Chin Chuen, Director of Japan Bloodhorse Breeders' Association & President of Iburi Breeders' Association Dr Yoshiro Tanaka and trainer Shane Baertschiger celebrate Aramco's victory.

The race, which had seven horses first-up among the 10, had three of these comeback kids in control of proceedings early. Rafaello (Nooresh Juglall) began the best to dictate terms from favourite Countofmontecristo (Michael Rodd) with the latter’s stablemate Alibi (Glen Boss) in close attendance.

Ridden by Wong Chin Chuen (the fourth rider who said ‘yes’), Aramco jumped on terms, but dropped back to worse than midfield once he settled into his strides.

Second-favourite Super Fortune (Olivier Placais), who usually races handy, was in midfield but trapped three wide facing the breeze. At the 600m, the Mossman four-year-old’s laboured strides were already sending distress signals he would not be taking a prominent part in the finish this time around.

On the other hand, Countofmontecristo was travelling a lot better with Rodd yet to bustle him up by the 300m, obviously mindful of not testing him too soon given his fitness query after last racing in the Group 1 Raffles Cup in October when fourth to Gilt Complex.

Speedy Dragon (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) was spotted in the same vicinity, too, but the dash he showed in the Group 3 New Year Cup (1200m) at his last start was a much watered-down version on grass, as he was seen whacking away without making much inroad.

When Countofmontecristo stepped up to the plate, fans and racegoers alike probably thought the race was in his keeping.

The new pairing of Rodd-Countofmontecristo hit the front to give some sight for a while, but their time at the top turned out to be shortlived.

Set alight by Wong on the outside, Aramco was steaming in with an electric turn of foot, going on to gain victory by one length from Countofmontecristo, who will surely improve from that first run under the belt, especially in light of the loftier targets mapped out for him.

Another huge run from a future perspective was Gold Cup hopeful Lim’s Samurai (Craig Grylls), who was deemed an unlikely party-pooper first-up since his suspensory niggles and over this trip.

The Lee Freedman-trained Japanese-bred defied those mindsets with the fastest last 600m to just miss the runner-up spot by a neck. The winning time was 1min 9.77secs for the 1200m on the Long Course.

"The Merlion Trophy is the second Leg but is run over Polytrack which he has never raced on. But that is probably the only option before the Lion City Cup,” said Baertschiger who sits in fourth place on the  trainer’s premiership on 16 winners, five behind current leader Michael Clements.

“I’ll have to speak to the owner.”

The Group 2 Merlion Trophy (1200m) is the only Leg of the Singapore Sprint Series run on Polytrack and will be staged on April 27. The grand final is the $1 million Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) which will be run on May 26 as part of the invitational Kranji Mile racing extravaganza preamble to next year’s Internationals.

As for two-time Singapore champion apprentice jockey Wong, he was slowly getting his groove back after a relatively slow start to the season. The Penang lad was incidentally notching his second feature win at Kranji after the Group 3 Committee’s Prize (1600m) with Twickenham last September.

“First of all, I’d like to thank the trainer Shane Baertschiger and the owner for the ride,” said Wong who was at his sixth win, sitting in third place, four behind leader Troy See.

“He had a light weight and we also had some luck in the running. He jumped good and there was a good tempo to the race.

“I didn’t want him to be too far back. He was a bit keen early, but he was soon travelling well underneath me and I had plenty in hand.

“He finished very strongly in the home straight.”

With that fifth win, Aramco, who already had A$107,675 in the bank from his Australian racing career, has now seen his Singapore earnings edge closer to the $270,000 mark for the Aramco Stable.


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