Brown ready to protect his turf

Corey Brown galloped away with the Gold Cup last year on board Quechua, spoiling War Affair's bid to achieve the prestigious Triple Crown feat.
Corey Brown galloped away with the Gold Cup last year on board Quechua, spoiling War Affair's bid to achieve the prestigious Triple Crown feat.TNP FILE PHOTO

He can repeat Gold Cup win with Quecha and ruin Stepitup's Triple Crown pursuit

Throughout this entire week, jockey Corey Brown has been feeling a sense of deja vu as he prepares for the Longines Singapore Gold Cup.

Similar to last year, all the attention ahead of today's $1.35 million Group 1 race has been focused on the elusive pursuit of the Triple Crown Series, a feat no local horse has achieved before.

With victories in last month's Kranji Mile and Raffles Cup, top-rated galloper Stepitup finds himself in the same position as War Affair, who in 2014 had also captured the first two legs.

The fairy-tale finish was ruined by a magnificent piece of riding by Brown aboard Quechua in the gruelling 2,200m Gold Cup and the Australian hoop is ready to play party-pooper again.

"He (Quechua) always seems to save his best for the big occasions," noted Brown, 39, who is also aiming to be the first rider to win back-to-back Gold Cups since compatriot Ronnie Stewart did so in 2008-09 with El Dorado.

A look at Quecha's resume explains Brown's confidence.

Since arriving in Singapore last year, the five-year-old Argentinian-bred gelding has been in outstanding form.

He has five wins from 15 starts at the Kranji Racecourse and has never finished outside the top three.

Proving that last year's Gold Cup triumph was no fluke, the Patrick Shaw-trained stayer captured the Group 1 Singapore Derby (2,000m) in July and has earned more than $2.2 million in prize money.

Even the wide draw at Gate 18 has not diminished the optimism of his connections.

After all, Quechua jumped from Barrier 13 last year and still won the Gold Cup by 11/2 lengths from stablemate Emperor's Banquet, who will start from Lane 11 today.

"Obviously, the five kilos he (Quechua) will be giving to some of his rivals is another story but he's in the same form he was last year," noted Shaw. The trainer will also send out Cooptado and Perfect P in a four-pronged attack to secure his third Gold Cup (after victories in 2006 and 2014).

Stepitup (Michael Rodd) will carry the top weight of 58kg while Quechua will saddle 55kg. The remainder of the 16-horse field will carry 50kg in the handicap race.

Said Brown, a former Melbourne Cup winner: "It's going to be a tricky race as a bunch of horses will have nothing on their backs but he looked really fit at last week's trials.

"He's always been a tough campaigner and he'll definitely be in a strong position down the straight."

With two bends to negotiate, 11 furlongs to cover and history on the line, the pressure will be on Stepitup but Rodd was not shying away from the spotlight.

He said: "Everything indicates he will be at his best on Sunday.

"Obviously, the big weight gap is a concern, especially if there is a bit of rain and that would mean he would carry a bit more weight.

"But (jumping from) Barrier 1 is obviously going to offset the weight. I won't have to do much compared to if he had drawn average, finding a spot and all that."

Brown has lost three times to the Rodd-Stepitup partnership this year, including at the Kranji Mile and Raffles Cup, and is desperate to turn the tables.

He said: "My horse loves a fight and I hate losing. We did it last year and there's no reason we can't do it again on Sunday."

SINGAPORE GOLD CUP
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2015, with the headline 'BROWN READY TO PROTECT HIS TURF'. Print Edition | Subscribe