Favourable draw a triple crown boost

Trainer Laurie Laxon at yesterday's post position draw for the Longines Singapore Gold Cup. Six-year-old gelding Stepitup, "the best horse in the field", according to Laxon, will carry the top weight of 58kg in the $1.35 million race, while defending
Trainer Laurie Laxon at yesterday's post position draw for the Longines Singapore Gold Cup. Six-year-old gelding Stepitup, "the best horse in the field", according to Laxon, will carry the top weight of 58kg in the $1.35 million race, while defending champion Quechua will be 3kg lighter.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Stepitup gets gate 1 as trainer enthusiastic over chance to create history in Gold Cup

A year after War Affair's historic bid for the Triple Crown fell agonisingly short, another horse has stepped up to bid for a place in local thoroughbred folklore.

Top-rated Stepitup, having won the first two legs of the 2015 Triple Crown Series last month, received a boost at yesterday's Longines Singapore Gold Cup post position draw as his connections target racing immortality.

The six-year-old gelding will start from gate 1 in Sunday's $1.35 million Group 1 race at the Singapore Turf Club (STC).

Having the innermost lane will be an advantage for the Australian-bred galloper as it will give jockey Michael Rodd several options on how to tackle the gruelling 2,200m trip, noted trainer Laurie Laxon.

Such was his satisfaction at the favourable barrier that the normally poker-faced Kiwi was smiling at his assistant Shane Ellis after walking off the stage at yesterday's ceremony at the STC.

Said Laxon, who has three other runners (Valbuena, gate 2; Martin, gate 14; and emergency acceptor Mr Spielberg, gate 20) in the race: "He's the best horse in the field and will have a nice position. It'll give him a soft run behind the leaders."

As the horse with the highest rating of 114 points in the handicap race, Stepitup will carry the top weight of 58kg while defending champion Quechua, with six points less, will be 3kg lighter.

The remainder of the 16-horse field (excluding the four emergency acceptors for any scratchings) will have 50kg on their backs.

Given the pedigree of Stepitup, Laxon - a nine-time champion trainer and twice a Gold Cup winner (2004 with Raul and 2007 with Recast) - was undaunted by the task at hand.

Stepitup has won 15 times from 33 career starts to amass stake earnings of more than $2.5 million while capturing 10 feature races.

The latest were the Kranji Mile (1,600m) and Raffles Cup (1,800m), just as War Affair did 12 months ago, before the latter finished fifth in the Gold Cup.

Laxon noted: "Stepitup has a good chance.

"He's a fighter with a big heart."

Coincidentally, the American version of the Triple Crown saw its first winner in 37 years when American Pharoah defied the odds to sweep all three legs in June.

While all eyes will be trained on Stepitup at the Kranji Racecourse, a host of challengers will fancy their chances of stealing the show at the Republic's richest local race.

Dark horse Fastnet Dragon, to be piloted by Epsom Derby-winning jockey Alan Munro, has won four times this year and will start from gate six.

Said Singaporean trainer Leslie Khoo: "The horse is in very good condition and he is waiting to fire."

Argentinian import Quechua (gate 18), from South African trainer Patrick Shaw's stables, also won the Singapore Derby (2,000m) in July and cannot be discounted.

Said Shaw, who is chasing a hat-trick after bagging Gold Cup triumphs in 2006 and 2014: "He was drawn wide last year (lane 15) and he still won so I am not too worried about that. He has the speed to get across at the start and follow the pace-setters."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2015, with the headline 'Favourable draw a triple crown boost'. Print Edition | Subscribe