John Powell showed why he is one of the best jockeys among the Kranji ranks with a wise decision that made the difference between winning and losing last night.
In slowing down the pace after settling down in the Class 4 Non Premier race over 1,800m on the long course, the Australian obtained a cheap early sectional to enable his mount, O'What A Feeling, to last it out to the winning post.
The Shane Baertschiger-trained $60 outsider did look vulnerable at the top of the straight. That was when jockey Matthew Kellady steered the $10 favourite Mr Dujardin up menacingly to eyeball O'What A Feeling.
But, surprisingly, O'What A Feeling did not yield one bit, kicking on strongly with his unusual high head carriage under Powell's vigorous riding to fend off Mr Dujardin to win by a head in 1min 48.98sec.
For Mr Dujardin, it was a change of strategy by chasing the leader, after winning his debut with a last-to-first victory over 1,600m and then finishing fourth second-up over 2,000m, also from the rear.
Although he was drawn in gate 8 in the field of 10, Powell managed to secure O'What A Feeling the lead by more than a length from Mr Dujardin on settling down. He then dropped anchor, clocking a slow 25.56sec for the first 400m and making it a sprint home.
Mr Dujardin was the only one not caught napping and the two leaders certainly kept racegoers fixated with their ding-dong tussle all the way to the winning post.
Powell admitted he thought O'What A Feeling was a goner when Mr Dujardin charged up at him.
"You know, on paper, Mr Dujardin was like the pick of the field. When Matty moved up to me at the 350m, I thought I was probably going to be beaten by two or three lengths," he said.
"But, he only got a head or a neck on me, and he couldn't find any more. I said my horse is a bit one-paced but he fought really well and got his head up at the right time."
Although he jumped as well as most, the GPI Racing Stable-owned O'What A Feeling did not zoom straightaway to the lead under his own steam but had to be stoked up and then allowed to relax.
"Actually, I had to hunt him to the front and he kind of wanted to wander a bit. But I was actually quite happy he wasn't pulling, so I just slowed down as much as I could without overdoing it. That probably got me an easy sectional and that was what helped him in the end," said Powell.
Baertschiger was very much relieved that O'What A Feeling staved off the favourite - thanks to the slow pace - for his third success in 21 starts and first over 1,800m.
"He led last start over 2,000m. John said he wasn't concentrating along in front, so we did a bit of work with him and got his mind back on the job," said Baertschiger.
"You know, they got away with murder, the first two horses. They were just crawling in front and it was just a two-horse war down the straight. Luckily, his head was up. It's always up, you know."
While rapt with the victory, Baertschiger knew it won't be easy for his charge from now on.
"He's going to battle a bit but he's won three races now. He's just an honest Class 4 horse but now he'll struggle a bit in Class 3. But you never know," said Baertschiger.