Elite Invincible lives up to his name

Elite Invincible just holding off a late-charging Circuit Land to give what jockey Benny Woodworth calls "the best win of my career".
Elite Invincible just holding off a late-charging Circuit Land to give what jockey Benny Woodworth calls "the best win of my career".ST PHOTO: SALWA SUANDI

Trainer Walker and jockey Woodworth bask in glory as underdog wins S'pore Gold Cup

More often than not, it has been about the improbable. Indeed, few could have scripted correctly the story which unfolded yesterday evening when the starter let them go in the $1.35 million Dester Singapore Gold Cup over 2,000m.

But first, the race and this was how Elite Invincible went on to lift the Cup.

As with the build-up to any big race, the atmosphere at Kranji was pure magic.

As always, the racing establishment asserted themselves in the mounting yard where the atmosphere exuded class - expensive tailored suits and dresses, ties - even hats.

Toss in the 16 jockeys in their silks of many colours and the horses - sleek, muscled and beautiful - and you could not have asked for more.

So when the starter said "go", the crowd in the "cheap seats" rose as one. Betting slips in shirt pockets, each oozed optimism.

For the horses, their moment was at hand.

EXCELLENT JOB

We put a lot of work into getting him ready. But it still wasn't the best preparation. We needed a bit of luck and we got it. I take my hat off to Benny (Woodworth). He rode a great race.

MARK WALKER , the happy trainer of Elite Invincible, on jockey Benny Woodworth.

Elite Invincible, ridden by Benny Woodworth and drawn the extreme outside, was quickly in front and he led them to the first turn. But, no sooner had they hit the back stretch that he choked him back to third, allowing a rabbit named McGregor to set a brisk pace.

There he stayed and, when the field fanned out for the run home, Woodworth prepared to administer the coup de grace.

The finish was no more a blur in the distance when Elite Invincible got the lead.

Alas, the unthinkable happened.

  • DESTER SINGAPORE GOLD CUP RESULTS

  • 1 Elite Invincible (7) Jockey: B. Woodworth

    2 Circuit Land(1) R. Maia

    3 Mr Clint(11) J. Ford

    4 Majestic Moments(3) B. Vorster

    WINNING STABLE: Elite Performance

    TRAINER: M. Walker.

    TIME: 2min 2.79sec (Going: yielding).

    Forecast: $227

    Tierce: $2,738

    Quartet: $54,442

    Trio: $377

Noah From Goa, a fine-looking chestnut, came crashing down. He would later be humanely euthanised. That unfortunate and terribly sad incident aside, the chase for the Gold Cup had begun.

Ask any jockey and he'll tell you "the last 200m lasts forever".

The crowd could see it, even sense it, and they cheered. McGregor - the leader at 400m, 800m and 1,200m - was history. So too was Bahana, who had been second after 800m.

They had been asked to do too much. Their Cup date in tatters, they had given their all. And, when there was nothing left to give, they just plodded to the line - exhausted, finishing 11th and 10th respectively.

Not so $60 outsider Elite Invincible. When challenged by Circuit Land inside the final stretch, he just managed to squeeze out that little extra.

It made the difference as, at the finish, a head separated him from Circuit Land. It is said, weight can stop a train. Perhaps, Circuit Land's 57.5kg did him in.

Mr Clint was a gallant third with Majestic Moments taking fourth.

Winning trainer Mark Walker was thrilled.

"We put a lot of work into getting him ready, " he said. "But it still wasn't the best preparation. We needed a bit of luck and we got it. I take my hat off to Benny (Woodworth). He rode a great race."

Splattered with mud, but still grinning, the long-time Malaysian jockey, said: "This is awesome. Most definitely, this is the best win of my career."

He was spot on. Winning this time-honoured race is, like someone sang, "a chance in a lifetime in a lifetime of chance".

Yesterday, on a rain-sodden track, Elite Invincible lifted the Singapore Gold Cup with unparalleled impudence. They said it was improbable. He proved them wrong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2018, with the headline 'Elite Invincible lives up to his name'. Print Edition | Subscribe