South African trainer Patrick Shaw will have numbers on his side this Sunday when he bids to win a rare hat-trick of consecutive Singapore Gold Cup crowns.
The last person to achieve this feat was Malcolm Peter Thwaites, who claimed three straight wins between 1996 and 1998.
Shaw will field four of the 12 runners, more than any other trainer, in the upcoming $1.35 million Group 1 race at the Kranji Racecourse. His quartet includes the past two Gold Cup winners, Quechua (2014) and defending champion Cooptado.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
It'll all be left to the gods but as far as I'm concerned I've got four nice horses in the race.
PATRICK SHAW, trainer, who said Quechua and Majestic Moments are the form horses, but also noted that defending champion Cooptado cannot be ruled out.
Even a mixed selection at yesterday's barrier draw conducted at Chinatown Point could not dampen his confidence ahead of the 2,200m race. Quechua will jump from Gate 8, in between stablemates Majestic Moments (Gate 5), Cooptado (Gate 10) and Time Odyssey (Gate 3).
The 60-year-old Shaw, who won the 2006 Gold Cup with Mr Line, said: "It'll all be left to the gods but as far as I'm concerned I've got four nice horses in the race.
"Anything can happen in racing, but it'll be a great achievement for myself (if I win three straight Gold Cups)."
While they will carry the heaviest weights, Shaw picked top-rated Quechua (58kg) and Majestic Moments (55kg) as his strongest contenders but cautioned against writing off Cooptado, who will carry 53kg.
He said: "They are the in-form horses at the moment. Never leave Cooptado out, because if he puts his best foot forward and comes out well on the day, he can run - which is entirely up to him because he's one of those horses that are very temperamental."
Despite strength in numbers, Shaw remained wary of the threat posed by Mr Spielberg (Gate 2) and Laughing Gravy (Gate 4).
The Laurie Laxon-trained Mr Spielberg's preparation for the Gold Cup has been "faultless", noted assistant trainer Shane Ellis.
The inner barrier will help the New Zealand-bred five-year-old "because it's the shortest way around and he'll get a nice, economical run; he's not going to be wide," added Ellis.
That factor, coupled with a 54kg load on Mr Spielberg's back, left Ellis quietly confident. "Pat is a great trainer of stayers and his horses will be fit. Quechua is obviously the class horse in the race, but having a 4kg advantage on him might make a difference."
Quechua, an Argentinian-bred six-year-old, has eight wins from 25 career starts. His victory at the Group 2 Chairman's Trophy (1,800m) in August was his fifth feature race triumph.
After several near-misses at Group-level races aboard Majestic Moments, the horse he rode to his first race win in Singapore in 2014, jockey Nooresh Juglall was determined to end that barren run this weekend.
He said: "The horse works hard and gives you everything you need as a rider... I hope it will be a 'majestic moment' for the both of us."