Horse racing: Minister wins Kranji Mile in thrilling three-way finish

Minister overcame a wide barrier to come from slightly further than midfield to win in a thrilling three-way finish. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Minister, runner-up twice and third once in three Group 1 races, scored a deserving victory at the top level in the $1 million Kranji Mile on Saturday (May 22).

Trained by New Zealander Donna Logan and ridden a well-judged race by jockey A'Isisuhairi Kasim, the Thai-owned King Power Stable-owned five-year-old overcame a wide barrier to come from slightly further than midfield to win in a thrilling three-way finish.

The American-bred gelding just got up to beat last-start Group 1 Lion City Cup winner Lim's Lightning by a mere head in the 1,600m showpiece, which was run behind closed doors and without foreign participation for the second year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Third, just a neck away, was Lion City Cup runner-up Rocket Star.

Minister was having just his third start for Logan. She took over the game galloper after trainer Lee Freedman returned to Australia in March.

Under the Australian Hall of Fame trainer and five-time Melbourne Cup winner, Minister finished second in the Singapore Gold Cup over 2,000m and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup over 1,800m. He was third in the Singapore Derby over 1,800m.

The horse had two improving lead-up runs with Logan - a smack-up unplaced outing over 1,200m in Class 2 and a fourth over 1,600m in Class 1. He looked spot-on after his good gallop on turf on Wednesday morning.

Logan and A'Isisuhairi were optimistic of Minister's chances and the horse made their day.

After jumping from Gate 14, the third-widest barrier, Minister was up with Fame Star, Preditor and Lim's Lightning upfront. A'Isisuhairi relaxed his mount and crossed in for a more economical run.

Fame Star kicked ahead to lead by a length from Lim's Lightning, with another length to Preditor. Grand Koonta, the highest-rated runner, was next. Rocket Star was midfield. Singapore Gold Cup winner Big Hearted was in the rear.

The $12 favourite, Singapore Derby-Queen Elizabeth II Cup hero Top Knight, was last.

Jockey Danny Beasley steered Lim's Lightning to overtake Fame Star shortly after straightening and then kicked ahead.

Rocket Star, under jockey Wong Chin Chuen's urgings, and Minister made it interesting with their late lunge.

In an exciting finish, Minister poked his head in front where it mattered most - the winning post. He clocked 1min 34.38sec and paid a juicy $92 for a win.

A'Isisuhairi was very satisfied that his hard work on Minister every morning during the preparation paid off.

"It gets emotional when you work hard and you get the result. This is what racing is all about and winning a Cup like this means a lot to me - for the hard work that I've put in," said the Kelantan-born jockey, whose other Group 1 success was with Gilt Complex in the 2017 Raffles Cup over 1,800m.

"I said to Donna the main key today is to get him to relax early and get some cover, because he always raced up handy and stretched out too keenly.

"He was travelling nice and relaxed even at the final bend. When I started to improve him, he just brought me into the race.

"At the home straight, when I got that clear run on the outside, I knew he would have a good finish. In the last 100m, I always believed I would beat Lim's Lightning at the finish line.

"It's good for Donna, and I must thank her for pushing the owner to put me on this horse.

"Even last year, I always believed this horse could win a Group 1. He ran good placings behind good horses like Top Knight and Big Hearted. Today, he proved that he's in that level."

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