Aramco gears up for comeback

Aramco denying Lim's Cruiser (partly obscured) a Lion City Cup hat-trick at Kranji on May 25. Ridden by two-time Singapore champion jockey Vlad Duric, Aramco gave trainer Shane Baertschiger his first Group 1 success.
Aramco denying Lim's Cruiser (partly obscured) a Lion City Cup hat-trick at Kranji on May 25. Ridden by two-time Singapore champion jockey Vlad Duric, Aramco gave trainer Shane Baertschiger his first Group 1 success. ST PHOTO: SALWA SUANDI

Lion City Cup victor wins 1,000m trial in style for his return to racing in Class 1 next week

The honeymoon is over and last-start Lion City Cup winner Aramco is back - and impressed he did for his return to racing next week.

The Shane Baertschiger-trained Australian-bred looks set to pick up from where he left off, if his nice barrier-trial victory at Kranji on Thursday morning is anything to go by.

The Aramco Stable-owned six-year-old bay gelding won the 1,000m trial on the Polytrack under his own steam and, despite that, clocked below one minute in 59.60sec.

Had his rider, two-time champion jockey Vlad Duric, said "giddy'up", his mount would have registered a swifter time - that showed how well the horse is at the moment. He looks spot on for his comeback.

The trial started with a bunch of horses disputing the lead. Eventually, Lim's Dream and Real Success kicked ahead. The duo were two lengths in front of Stardice and Scorpio, with Aramco sitting beautifully behind them. Then came former Horse of the Year War Affair.

Lim's Dream swung very wide at the home turn, leaving Real Success in front on the inside path. Aramco pulled himself up with the wide gap in front. War Affair also loomed up and launched his attack.

Although Duric was just sitting pretty in the saddle, Aramo levelled up with Real Success 200m out. He went on to win by a neck - but with a lapful of horse underneath.

Pleased with that trial, Baertschiger has earmarked a Class 1 race over 1,200m tomorrow week for Aramco's comeback assignment.

"He's making his comeback next week in a Class 1 race over 1,200m," said the Kranji-based Australian.

"It's been six weeks between runs. He had a week off after the Lion City Cup and has come back good.

"I was very happy with his trial. He had the blinkers on. He had the blinkers on at his last trial before the Lion City Cup as well, and he won that, too.

"He will then have seven weeks to the Merlion Trophy. It's on Polytrack and is the last weight-for-age race over 1,200m for the year.

"He'll go to the paddocks after that and that would be it for him. There is nothing else for him."

The $400,000 Group 2 Merlion Trophy over 1,200m is on Aug 25.

Baertschiger certainly deserves top marks for turning Aramco into a top-notch galloper who gave him his first Group 1 success by capturing the $800,000 Lion City Cup over 1,200m on May 25.

It was a crowning moment not many would have predicted this time last year when he was racing well, but could not quite make his presence felt in elite company.

But Baertschiger has managed to unlock his charge's true potential this campaign, spacing his runs astutely with sterling results - four wins in five starts to bring up his total tally to nine wins.

The victories included the Group 3 Garden City Trophy over 1,200m last October and the career pinnacle that was Singapore's premier sprint race six weeks ago.

With the Singapore Sprint Series discontinued, the three feature races that used to make up the challenge have been reshuffled accordingly.

Formerly the grand final, the Lion City Cup is now held in tandem with the Invitational Kranji Mile with a view of turning it into the next KrisFlyer International Sprint in the foreseeable future.

In this year's renewal, Aramco came with a withering run to deny Singapore champion sprinter Lim's Cruiser a three-in-a-row in the Lion City Cup. But he had earlier bypassed the former second leg, the Group 3 Rocket Man Sprint over 1,200m, which was captured by ex-stablemate Bold Thruster on May 5.

In 21 starts at Kranji, the horse known as Mawahibb when prepared by Team Hawkes for a win over 1,200m at Moonee Valley in 10 starts in Australia, has raced on the Polytrack only once.

Incidentally, it was in last year's Merlion Trophy when he ran on late to finish eighth, four lengths off the winner Distinctive Darci.

Meanwhile, Lim's Cruiser, who went on to finish a respectable eighth in the £600,000 (S$1 million) Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes over 1,200m at Royal Ascot last Saturday, is almost certain to have another crack in England.

Happy that his charge had "pulled up astounding" from the race, trainer Stephen Gray had already paid up the second nomination entry fee for the £500,000 Group 1 Darley July Cup over 1,200m at Newmarket on July 13.

It is now up to Lim's Cruiser's owner, Lim Siah Mong of Lim's Stable, to decide whether to compete in the Darley July Cup.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'Aramco gears up for comeback'. Print Edition | Subscribe