Top-form Polytrack specialist Distinctive Darci exploded away to shoot down the two top guns in the $500,000 Group 2 Merlion Trophy over 1,200m in Race 6 last night.
With all his previous eight victories on the alternate surface and having his fifth Group race attempt, the $25 third favourite was timed to perfection by jockey Vlad Duric.
The reigning champion missed a stupendous Group 2 double in Race 8 when his mount, Horse of the Year Infantry, was pipped by a head by former Hong Kong galloper Circuit Land in the $500,000 Chairman's Trophy over 1,600m.
The two horses fought hammer and tongs to the post before Circuit Land put his head down when it mattered most to give Australian Hall of Fame trainer Lee Freedman his first Group success as a Kranji-based trainer.
Seven-year-old Circuit Land, who paid $41 for a win, was ridden by visiting Macau-based Brazilian jockey Ruan Maia.
"I've won many Group races over many years. To win my first Group race here is a real thrill," said Freedman.
Back to Distinctive Darci. The Mark Walker-trained four-year-old has been in sizzling form this campaign, winning his last two starts in convincing manner, which Walker paid tribute to the Singapore Turf Club's farrier, Paul Summers, for fixing his charge's shoes.
Duric parked Distinctive Darci, owned by Dato Terry Lee of Fairdeal Stable, around midfield, as Lincoln Road led from New Year Cup winner Speedy Dragon. Flanking him were multiple-Group winner and $9 favourite Countofmontecristo and Champion Sprinter and $23 second favourite Lim's Cruiser, who was very wide.
Lincoln Road was pressured by Speedy Dragon on his inside and Countofmontecristo on his outside after straightening. Lim's Cruiser also joined in the fray with 300m left to run. Distinctive Darci was right behind the quartet.
Countofmontecristo soon shot ahead. Lim's Cruiser tried desperately hard but his half-year layoff probably did him in. Duric dived to the inside for a clear run. In an exciting finish, Distinctive Darci got up to beat "The Count" by a neck in 1min 11.13sec. Lim's Cruiser finished third, a length behind.
"Yeah, he just really came up nicely this preparation. You know, he's three-from-three with the blinkers-pacifiers on," said Walker. "I really want to thank Paul Summers, who has taken over the shoeing of the horse. I just think he has got his feet right. He's a different horse at the moment. It's great."
Said Duric: "He's just a fabulous horse, loves this surface and I was extremely confident going into the race. But I've an amazing respect for Countofmontecristo and Lim's Cruiser, and the rest of the opposition. Lucky my horse was the best horse of the night."
Friday's South Africa results
No betting for Races 1 and 2
1st 3 Valentine's Girl ($23-$9)
2nd 14 Tasunke $6
3rd 4 Zalika $12
4th 1 Bikini Model
Forecast $18 Place Forecast (3-14) $7, (3-4) $10, (4-14) $12
Tierce $245 Trio $41
Quartet $439, ($500 jcakpot carried forward to next race)
Scratchings: 6 Abbeleigh, 9 Air Belle
1st 4 Soviet Cosmonaut ($25-$8)
2nd 5 Green Lantern ($5.10)
3rd 1 Story Of My Life ($7)
4th 7 Free agent
Forecast $15 Place Forecast (4-5) $5, (1-4) $10, (1-5) $5
Tierce $307 Trio $23
Scratching: 8 Leadman
1st 8 Silver Goblet ($50-$18)
2nd 1 So Enchanting ($31)
3rd 7 Lucky Lulu ($11)
4th 11 Jungle Fairy
Forecast $462 Place Forecast (1-8) $98, (7-8) $17, (1-7) $41
Tierce No winner ($3,212 carried forward) Trio $827
Quartet No winner ($392 carried forward)
1st 3 Kingston Mines ($45-$12)
2nd 4 My World ($13)
3rd 6 Plano ($10)
4th 1 True Master
Forecast $67 Place Forecast (3-4) $21, (3-6) $15, (4-6) $22
Quartet No winner ($726 carried forward)
1st 13 Madame Speaker ($11-$7)
2nd 2 Alfeo ($18)
3rd 9 Say No More ($16)
4th 3 Aloysius
Forecast $25 Place Forecast (2-13) $12, (9-13) $13, (2-9) $31
Quartet No winner ($1,354 carried forward)
Scratching: 8 Open Fire
1st 8 African Victory ($10-$6)
2nd 5 Kiftsgate ($7)
3rd 7 Valentinik ($16)
4th 4 Cock-A-Hoop
Forecast $5 Place Forecast (5-8) $4, (7-8) $12, (5-7) $11
Scratchings: 1 Favour's Pride, 2 Zip Line