Bahana wins Gold Cup from wide out

Bahana, carrying just 50.5 kg, winning the 2,200m Singapore Gold Cup by 11/2 lengths in 2min 17.42sec. The five-year-old Kiwi gelding handed Australian jockey Craig Williams his first Group 1 victory in Singapore.
Bahana, carrying just 50.5 kg, winning the 2,200m Singapore Gold Cup by 11/2 lengths in 2min 17.42sec. The five-year-old Kiwi gelding handed Australian jockey Craig Williams his first Group 1 victory in Singapore.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Jockey Williams denies Shaw hat-trick to give trainer Gray first win in S'pore's biggest race

Starting from the least favourable position in the 12-horse race, Bahana defied the odds yesterday to win the $1.35 million Singapore Gold Cup, the biggest prize in Singapore horse racing.

The five-year-old New Zealand gelding jumped out from barrier 12, an outside position that was furthest from the rail.

But after accelerating to take the lead at the first turn of the 2,200m race, it remained in front to clinch the victory by a length and a half at the Singapore Turf Club's Kranji Racecourse.

It was the first title at the annual Group One event for Bahana's trainer Stephen Gray.

The 52-year-old, who moved to Singapore from New Zealand in 2000, celebrated his long-awaited success. In between receiving hugs and congratulations from those around him yesterday, he said: "I've lived here and been to this race for the 16 years and now it's finally my turn to win.

"It feels pretty surreal. Over the past 15 years, you've seen 15 winners, there's plenty of good trainers who are out there too who have won before.

"And when it's finally your turn, you can really appreciate it, you just wonder and be amazed."

Entering yesterday's showdown, perhaps a statistic that was in Bahana's favour was that it was carrying just 50.5kg on its back.

The past three winners of the race each carried less than 52kg.

Winning jockey Craig Williams thanked fellow Australian jockey Vlad Duric, who recommended him to ride at the Gold Cup after Duric had rode Bahana to win the Group 3 El Dorado Classic on Oct 30 in the lead-up to the marquee race.

The freckle-faced Williams, 39, has racked up more than 40 Group 1 victories in his career across places like Hong Kong, Australia, Britain, but none of them coming in Singapore - until yesterday.

He said: "This race was a big thrill and I feel honoured to win because this is one of Singapore's most prestigious races."

South African trainer Patrick Shaw was denied a rare hat-trick of consecutive Singapore Gold Cup crowns.

The last person to achieve the feat was Malcolm Peter Thwaites, who claimed three straight wins from 1996 to 1998.

Time Odyssey, one of Shaw's four runners yesterday, was in second spot chasing Bahana for most of the race and could not overtake the leader in the final stretch to finish runner-up in the end.

The past two Gold Cup winners, Quechua (2014) came in fifth and defending champion Cooptado finished ninth.

Said Gray of Bahana: "He is a tough horse and hard to get past. He has guts and will keep improving."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2016, with the headline 'Bahana wins Gold Cup from wide out'. Print Edition | Subscribe