Horse racing: Singapore Gold Cup winner Elite Invincible bags three awards at Racing Appreciation Night

 Elite Invincible (#7) with jockey Benny Woodworth astride, holding off a late-charging Circuit Land (#1), winning the Dester Singapore Gold Cup on Nov 11, 2018.
Elite Invincible (#7) with jockey Benny Woodworth astride, holding off a late-charging Circuit Land (#1), winning the Dester Singapore Gold Cup on Nov 11, 2018.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Elite Performance Stable's Elite Invincible lived up to his name when he scored big, including the 2018 Horse of the Year title, at Monday's (Jan 21) Racing Appreciation Night to honour the stars of last season.

Before the champion galloper award was announced at the Grand Ballroom of JW Marriott South Beach, the connections of Elite Performance Stable already went ballistic when its Mark Walker-trained equine hero was voted Champion Four-Year-Old and Champion Stayer.

"It has always been our aim to buy Group 1 horses and he's probably the best horse we have got now. He's the ice-breaker for us to get into the turf club," said Elite Performance Stable's Aloysius Chew.

"Moving forward, we have already acquired supposedly good horses and this year we are going to compete at a higher level, so we hope to be able to win again this year."

Elite Invincible, however, failed to win the other category he was nominated for - the Champion Miler Award, which went to the deserving Cliff Brown-trained Debt Collector, the 2016 Horse of the Year.

Barree Stable's Debt Collector received more votes, principally for his victory in a race for three-year-olds and upwards - the $1 million Group 1 Raffles Cup over 1,600m - while Elite Invincible's mile success - the $1 million Group 1 Giovanni Racing Charity Bowl - was restricted to four-year-olds.

The Charity Bowl was the middle leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge. Elite Invincible also captured the first leg - the $500,000 Group 2 Stewards' Cup over 1,400m - but was beaten by the Hideyuki Takaoka-trained Jupiter Gold in the final leg - the $1.15 million Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby over 1,800m.

It was a no-brainer that the Champion Four-Year-Old Award was his for the taking on his superb run in the series.

Elite Invincible capped his great season by lifting the blue riband of Singapore racing - the $1.35 million Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup over 2,000m - on Nov 11 and that certainly put the 2018 Horse of the Year crown on the bay gelding's head.

Debt Collector also ended the year on a high, with a superb come-from-behind victory in the $1 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup over 1,800m, also an open race for three-year-olds and upwards.

The Raffles Cup and Queen Elizabeth II Cup were the first two legs of the Singapore Triple Crown Series.

Debt Collector stood to win a $300,000 bonus if he were to win the Dester Singapore Gold Cup, but his connections did not want to risk their champion in the gruelling race with a crippling weight in the handicap affair.

But Debt Collector, now six years of age, was duly rewarded by racing away with his second title of the night - the Champion Older Horse Award.

If he had taken part in the Gold Cup and won with the grandstand on his back, the script would have been different. He would certainly have joined horses like Rocket Man and Super Easy in achieving two Horse of the Year titles.

IB Racing Stable's Maximus was the other with a grand double, taking the Champion Polytrack Horse and Most Improved Horse awards.

The alternate track specialist's crowning glory came on the last day of the 2018 season on Dec 9 when he captured the $175,000 Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes over 1,600m.

The Champion Two-Year-Old, Champion Three-Year-Old and Champion Sprinter Awards went to Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe winner Lim's Lightning, Group 1 Singapore Guineas winner Mr Clint and dual Lion City Cup winner Lim's Cruiser respectively. It was Lim's Cruiser's second Champion Sprinter title.

The awards were decided by a panel comprising the Singapore Turf Club handicapping panel, its TV broadcasting team and members of the media.

Nominees for the various awards were shortlisted primarily on the basis of their performances in Group and feature races.

The two Racing Media Awards (English and Chinese) were selected by the Association of Racehorse Trainers Singapore.

Formerly known as the Singapore Racing Awards, about 330 people from the local and foreign racing fraternity attended Monday's gala event, which was hosted and coordinated by the Customer Care Department of the Singapore Turf Club.

The proceeds from table sales went to the Deaf Sports Association.