They came, they saw and they conquered last year.
Tonight, it looks like history is going to repeat itself.
Yes, Singapore does have some worthy contenders in the $1.5 million Kranji Mile - Singapore's richest race - but Asia's racing powerhouse Hong Kong looks set to achieve the same 1-2 finish as last year with their two top runners.
Hong Kong produced the quinella with Southern Legend and Horse Of Fortune in the inaugural running of the invitational Group 1 feature a year ago and the Caspar Fownes-trained Southern Legend is back to defend his crown.
The Boniface Ho-owned six-year-old gelding is fit and raring to go. He is fresh from his last-start sixth in the ultra-competitive Group 1 Dubai Turf over 1,800m at Meydan on March 30 won by Japanese champion mare Almond Eye.
Tony Millard, who saddled Horse Of Fortune, will be trying to go one better with Singapore Sling, a horse with Singapore connections.
The five-year-old South African-bred is raced by Nikki Ng, the Hong Kong-born daughter of Singapore-born property tycoon Robert Ng. Robert is the son of the late billionaire and Far East Organisation founder Ng Teng Fong, who raced the powerful Lucky Stable locally.
All week, there is some hype that Singapore Sling could be the better of the Hong Kong duo on his last-start second to the world's top-miler, Beauty Generation, in the Group 1 Champions Mile on April 28. Based on this, Singapore Sling is likely to start as the favourite.
Even Fownes reckoned that, while Southern Legend has "got the heart" to bounce back - his horse has not won since last year's Kranji Mile - the pressure will be off as the second favourite.
While we would like to see a Singapore victory for patriotic reasons, I still think either Southern Legend or Singapore Sling is the way to go in Race 9 at Kranji tonight, with the unlucky Hong Kong horse running a close second.
Southern Legend and Singapore Sling may not have won for a year or more, but one has to take into account that both horses have raced against the creme de la creme back home.
Going on their recent records, they finished mostly behind Beauty Generation and another world-beater, Exultant, who is bidding for his third Group 1 victory this campaign in tomorrow's Champions & Chater Cup at Sha Tin.
Southern Legend was runner-up to Beauty Generation in the Jockey Club Mile and third to the champion in the Hong Kong Mile and the Stewards' Cup. He was second to Exultant in the Hong Kong Gold Cup.
I pick him ahead of Singapore Sling because he finished in front of Singapore Sling in three of the above Group races.
But, truthfully, if Singapore Sling can reproduce his last-start form, when beaten by only 11/2 lengths by Beauty Generation, he should be the one to beat.
But Southern Legend has always finished ahead of Singapore Sling, which is why I am sticking to the defending Kranji Mile hero.
If there is a local horse most capable of upsetting the Hong Kong applecart, it is Kranji's in-form former Horse of the Year Debt Collector.
Trainer Cliff Brown's champion is unbeaten in his last four starts - two in Group 1 and one in Group 2 - and he is jumping out of his skin in his preparation for the big race.
I am a Debt Collector fan and would like to see him bring glory to Singapore. After all, we have not enjoyed any success against the foreign invaders in our own backyard since Ato's victory in the now-defunct $1 million Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint over 1,200m in 2012.
But, after studying the field of 10, I feel the race is a bit lacking in speed. This may not suit Debt Collector - a powerful come-from-behind galloper. The good thing is the long course can help his cause.
Pray for the best.
Trainer Hideyuli Takaoka's Makanani, the only female horse in the race, will probably end up as the rabbit. But she is just a rank outsider. A win would be a big surprise.
Singapore's second-best hope, the Michael Clements-trained Countofmontecristo, has led all the way in a few races but he has been ridden off the speed in his recent runs.
But, drawn the second-widest barrier and the addition of blinkers, he may be forced to roll forward to secure a good position. His connections would probably prefer to sit and save for the long run home, instead of being a sitting duck in the straight. Singapore racegoers will also hope he can last if he leads.
The third likely scenario is Southern Legend, who has not led in his recent races, taking the lead - like he did in last year's Kranji Mile. From pole position, he led all the way. Tonight, he is drawn favourably in gate 2.
Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton is an intelligent rider. He will know what's best after the "off" - to lead or to track the leader.
By the way, the Australian has a sterling record at Kranji. He won the now-defunct $3 million Singapore Airlines International Cup on Military Attack in 2013 and the KrisFlyer International Sprint on Aerovelocity in 2015.
Besides taking the Kranji Mile last year, he also won the Group 1 Singapore Guineas on Mr Clint.
With luck, he can also bring home the Group 1 Lion City Cup (1,200m) tonight on Lim's Cruiser, who will be suited by the fast tempo in his hat-trick bid in the race.
Purton is riding Lim's Lightning in the Guineas, the other Group 1 on Super Saturday, but the field is fairly strong. Wish him luck.
Friday's South Africa results
1st 9 Place Du Marche ($12-$7)
2nd 14 Speechmaker ($6)
3rd 15 Tibetan Sunrise ($25)
4th 11 Reason To Sing
Forecast $14 Place Forecast (9-14) $7, (9-15) $23, (14-15) $34 Tierce $361 Trio $143 Quartet No winner ($578 jackpot carried forward to next race)
1st 1 Amber Tree ($15-$5.10)
2nd 9 Mio Grande ($11) 3rd 3 Bold Strike ($9) 4th 12 Rango
Forecast $33 Place Forecast (1-9) $15, (1-3) $6, (3-9) $13
Tierce $278 Trio $29 Quartet No winner ($1,152 carried forward) Scratching: 13 Rocking The Blues
1st 6 Silken Thread ($37-$15)
2nd 1 Cirencester Rose ($8)
3rd 4 Ginger Rock ($9) 4th 2 Suzie Mayweather Forecast $25 Place Forecast (1-6) $8, (4-6) $19, (1-4) $9 Tierce $518 Trio $37 Quartet $1,624, ($755 carried forward)
1st 8 Seattle Swing ($91-$19)
2nd 6 Malinga ($9) 3rd 4 Frikkie ($11) 4th 3 Multi Gold
Forecast $111 Place Forecast (6-8) $19, (4-8) $19, (4-6) $9
Tierce $1,409 Trio $91 Quartet $1,124, ($1,258 carried forward)
Scratching: 5 Angel Of Athens
1st 9 Royal Fort ($26-$12)
1st 10 Captain Marooned ($30-$16) 3rd 4 Alamito Bay ($22) 4th 1 Highland Hero
Forecast $122 Place Forecast (9-10) $32, (4-9) $44, (4-10) $50 Tierce No winner ($2,590 carried forward) Trio $1,037
Quartet No winner ($1,638 carried forward)
Scratching: 14 Pachuco
1st 3 Union Jack ($21-$6)
2nd 5 Maverick Girl ($10)
3rd 2 Afrikaburn ($14)
4th 1 Fifty Cents
Forecast $42 Place Forecast (3-5) $17, (2-3) $12, (2-5) $23
Tierce $344 Trio $50
Scratching: 7 Clifton Crusher
1st 5 Hooves Of Troy ($17-$9)
2nd 2 Foreign Source ($7)
3rd 3 Gold Dragon ($14)
4th 9 Captain Anne Bonny
Forecast $9 Place Forecast (2-5) $3, (3-5) $25, (2-3) $20
Tierce $179 Trio $57
Quartet No winner ($402 carried forward)
Scratching: 1 Viking Moon
Result of Race 8 was not available at press time.
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