HK racer legend in making

Southern Legend owner Boniface Ho choosing one of the hats with the concealed barrier numbers for the Kranji Mile defending champion racehorse. He drew barrier 2. PHOTO: SINGAPORE TURF CLUB
Southern Legend owner Boniface Ho choosing one of the hats with the concealed barrier numbers for the Kranji Mile defending champion racehorse. He drew barrier 2. PHOTO: SINGAPORE TURF CLUB

Kranji Mile defending champ and Singapore Sling driven by 'heart' and good recent form

One inside, the other outside.

That is the luck of the draw for the two Hong Kong runners in tomorrow's second edition of the invitational $1.5 million Kranji Mile, Singapore's richest horse race.

Southern Legend's owner Boniface Ho certainly has good hands when it comes to picking the all-important barrier for his Kranji Mile defending champion.

The first balloted by Singapore Turf Club president and chief executive Chong Boo Ching, to pick from one of the 10 Panama hats with the concealed barrier numbers at the post position draw ceremony held at The Westin Singapore yesterday, Ho broke into a wide smile after drawing the advantageous gate 2.

Last year, Ho drew barrier 1 and Southern Legend went on to lead all the way in the Group 1 feature over 1,600m under champion jockey Zac Purton, who will be aboard again tomorrow.

"Very happy with it," said Ho.

"I think he's all right - back from Dubai, had a long rest and he's prepared for this race."

But, asked by Singapore Turf Club presenter-cum-racecaller Luke Marlow if Southern Legend can win again, Ho added: "It's more difficult this year. We have another horse from Hong Kong called Singapore Sling and this horse has got very, very good recent form.

"He ran very close to Beauty Generation in his last race, just 11/2 lengths behind Beauty Generation. So, based on that form, I think Singapore Sling is the horse to beat."

Well, Southern Legend has yet to win again after he triumphed in Singapore a year ago, but he was placed in several Group 1 and 2 races back home.

He last raced in the Group 1 Dubai Turf over 1,800m at Meydan on March 30, finishing sixth to Japanese champion mare Almond Eye.

Winless since last May, trainer Caspar Fownes reckons Southern Legend could bounce back in the race he won a year ago.

"He's got heart," said the three-time Hong Kong champion, who won the now-defunct Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint three times with Green Birdie (2010) and Lucky Nine (2013 and 2014).

When it came to the connections of Singapore Sling to pick a hat, there were only three barriers left - 3, 4 and 10.

Up strode Beverly Millard, wife of trainer Tony Millard, who prepares Singapore Sling for Nikki Ng, the Hong Kong-born daughter of Singapore-born property tycoon Robert Ng - son of the late billionaire and Far East Organization founder Ng Teng Fong, who raced the powerful Lucky Stable in Singapore-Malaysia.

Alas, it was the widest gate she drew for Singapore Sling, compared to barrier 2 last year for the stable's Horse Of Fortune, who finished second behind Southern Legend under jockey Karis Teetan.

"Yeah, it is what it is - not ideal but just have to do with what you are given. It's now up to Karis," said Beverly.

"We've been a bit tough to have hit Beauty Generation in most of his races this season and Southern Legend has finished in front of him as well. But, if he can reproduce that last run, he'll be right in."

Singapore's best hope, Debt Collector, drew gate 4 but it looks inconsequential. He is a get-back type of runner.

The most important thing is the horse is in fantastic form, winning his last four races, including two in Group 1.

"Yeah, he's really good, but he needs to be on top of his game," said trainer Cliff Brown.

"He's very well, he has done everything right, so full steam ahead."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2019, with the headline 'HK racer legend in making'. Print Edition | Subscribe