By Michael Lee – Japanese colt Mikki Joy gave his Singapore Gold Cup aspirations no harm with a solid staying performance in the $85,000 Class 2 race over 1800m on Friday night.
It was his second Kranji win in a row and by all accounts, even more impressive than the first recorded in a Kranji Stakes B race over the mile four weeks ago.
While the Deep Impact seven-year-old was more tradesmanlike at the maiden Kranji win, this time around, he left his nine rivals battling in his wake after he produced a sizzling turn of foot inside the last furlong.
For a while, the $10 favourite did, however, look like he might struggle after he found himself pushed out in a one-off spot in fifth spot, even though he found the fence in the first 400m.
But once jockey John Powell had him whipping around the field to sit in a striking position at the top of the straight, the outcome was soon a foregone conclusion.
Race-leader Lionrockspirit (Glen Boss) and his challengers Twickenham (Vlad Duric) and Mighty Kenny (Matthew Kellady) were left without so much of a response when a blue flash streaked past down the middle of the track.
Donning the Middle Kingdom Stable’s familiar blue and white diamonds silks, Mikki Joy quickly gapped his rivals only to be cut back late by the fast-finishing Dicton (Juan Paul van der Merwe) who finished second 1 ½ lengths astern. Lionrockspirit stayed on for third place another 1 ¾ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 48.43secs for the 1800m on the Long Course.
Trainer Shane Baertschiger was a happy man at the winner’s circle, especially as dreams of the gilt-edged kind shimmer in the horizon, but the Australian did admit to some anxious moments before the race.
“I was worried a little bit tonight. He is usually quiet even though he is a bull, but I could hear him screaming his head off in the holding area,” said Baertschiger.
“He was more worked up than usual and he was on his toes on the way out. Maybe a bit of fire in the belly is good.
“He’s been working and trialling well and I knew he would be hard to beat tonight.
“He was placed over 1800m in Japan, but as he is by Deep Impact, he should run 2000m easy. He would be a good lightweight chance for the Gold Cup.
“He is still in Class 2 after tonight’s win. I’ll see what is next for him on the programme.”
The Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) is the third Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series. The time-honoured handicap race will be run this year on November 10.
Powell who was also aboard at Mikki Joy’s first win – incidentally the Australian jockey’s 2019 opener – said the entire’s enhanced fitness went a long way in explaining the more slashing victory on Friday night.
“He ran second over 1800m in Japan and was very strong to the line tonight. He was fitter and he finished a lot better, I couldn’t pull him up after the line,” said the heavyweight rider.
“He came out of the gates a bit slow and I was a bit concerned he would be caught on the fence. The mindset was to be on the fence and find room to get going, but it’s all worked out good in the end.
“He will be a very good Gold Cup ride – I hope I can make the weight, though!”
Unplaced on debut, Mikki Joy has subsequently strung up two wins in a row for Jayven See’s Middle Kingdom No 3 Stable for local stakes money that have now hit around the $90,000 mark, which is still some way off the tidy sum of US$712,826 he earned from his five wins in Japan, all over the mile.