SINGAPORE - Leading trainer Michael Clements' Singapore Derby-Queen Elizabeth II Cup hero Top Knight was all the rage, but it was his up-and-coming lightweight hope Big Hearted who stole the show in the Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup on Saturday (Nov 21).
Both his horses moved up beautifully from the rear on the yielding track at the Kranji Racecourse to go after the Lee Freedman-trained Minister, who had hit the front soon after straightening.
It was soon evident the leader was vulnerable over the 2,000m, $1 million, race.
With the minimum 50kg on his back and a great ride by reigning champion apprentice jockey Simon Kok, Big Hearted produced more to beat Minister (Ryan Munger) by half a length. The third fancy, he paid $42 for a win.
Top Knight plugged on gallantly with the 57kg top load under champion jockey Vlad Duric to finish third. He was 1 3/4 lengths away in Singapore's premier classic which was run behind closed doors because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
His defeat meant another Gold Cup topweight had fallen victim to tradition. The last toppie to win was Smart Bet 18 years ago.
Between then and now, six horses have won with 50kg and many others under 53kg, because of the handicap conditions.
Big Hearted and Top Knight are owned by the formidable Thai outfit, Falcon Racing No. 7 Stable.
Saturday's Gold Cup success was the first for Clements and Kok.
There was a keen tussle for the lead, with six horses racing past the winning post for the first time.
Among them was Yulong Edition, who managed to cross in after being trapped wide to be a clear leader on the back straight.
The $176 outsider was followed by Derby runner-up Elite Incredible and last week's winner Senor Don. But he was a spent force at the top of the straight, as a few horses fanned out on his outside.
Minister, who was handy for most of the way, soon hit the front. But he was no match for Big Hearted's strong finish. He, however, held on to beat Top Knight, the $12 favourite, for second.
The day started with beautiful weather. But the rain that came and delayed Race 7 and the remaining races by half an hour certainly put the smile on Clements' face.
"Top Knight and Big Hearted were winners on the wet track last start. When the rain came, it was welcomed," said Clements.
"Earlier on in the race, I felt Big Hearted was probably a bit too far back. But Vlad, on Top Knight, was just in front of him. Vlad decided to make a move to make up ground and Simon just followed him. He's getting 7kg from Top Knight, so he was ideal horse to get a lead on.
"With 50m before the straight, I could see both were starting to motor home.
"Halfway up the straight, Minister was still a long way in front, but they were flying. I felt that we would have a very big chance of winning the race.
"Within the last 100m, Big Hearted, as he is aptly named, really dug deep and won a great race. Top Knight ran well, giving 7kg to the winner."
Kok, who "felt too many emotions running through his body", said Big Hearted was not too happy with the ground on the back straight.
"So I shifted back behind Top Knight and decided to follow him, because he was the widest horse, and he got the best ground," said the Malaysian rider.
"He brought me beautifully into the race. Coming to the 500m, my horse had a better turn of foot because of the light weight. That's why he kicked away very strongly. I was pretty confident in the last 350m because of his turn of foot."