SINGAPORE - Aramaayo, the "freshest" of the 16 contenders with only six Kranji starts but came with top credentials from Australia, landed Singapore's marquee event - the $1 million Kranji Mile - in a thriller on Sunday (Aug 16).
It was a gem of a ride by jockey Ruan Maia on the best fancied of the three Shane Baertschiger-trained runners in the 1,600m feature delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the aid of blinkers, the Brazilian gave his $33 shot a beautiful passage to beat trainer Michael Clements' classy pair of Top Knight and the much-vaunted $11 favourite Countofmontecristo in an exciting finish.
The margins were half a length and a short head.
Owned by Aramco Stable, Aramaayo clocked a swift 1min 33.85sec for the 1,600m trip. This was just 0.24sec outside Super Ninetyseven's 2013 record. He did it with 57kg to 51.5kg by Super Ninetyseven.
Baertschiger was quietly confident of a big run from his Australian Group 3 Spring Stakes winner over 1,600m.
His one-time Kranji winner over 1,400m also ran well in his lead-up races, including a fast-finishing third to Siam Blue Vanda in the Group 2 Stewards' Cup over 1,600m on March 20.
"Well, he was a proven performer in Australia at Group level, and he has beaten Top Knight at his third start at Kranji," said Baertschiger.
"In the second leg of the Four-Year-Old Series, he missed the start by six lengths and he ran third.
"Then his first-up last start the other day was super. He came from last to finish third over 1,100m, and we knew he wanted blinkers, but we saved it for the big one today. It helped."
The win gave Baertschiger his third Group 1 success, after Aramco in the Lion City Cup and I'm Incredible in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, both last year.
I'm Incredible, who went on to capture the Horse of the Year title, ran 13th on Sunday.
Baerstchiger's other runner, Preditor, finished ninth.
The Kranji Mile field jumped evenly and Maia tucked Aramaayo midfield as instructed, as the Jason Lim-trained $388 outsider Eye Guy set a brisk pace.
Jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin made the first move on Countofmontecristo, moving up from fifth to hit the front shortly after straightening.
Maia moved up in tandem and came within striking range. He poked ahead 150m out with a forceful drive but Top Knight charged home on the outside under top apprentice jockey Simon Kok.
But Maia kept his mount going strongly to win.
"It all went to plan. I told Maia yesterday 'I will scare now, you're gonna sit midfield and, hopefully, you are following Countofmontecristo and just save him up for the last crack' - and it all worked out.
"I was a little worried when Top Knight came, but Maia changed his stick to the left and he went on again."
Aramaayo is now headed for the $500,000 Group 1 Singapore Derby on Sept 6.
Baertschiger said the 1,800m trip will not pose any problem as Aramaayo has raced in the VRC Derby and AJC Derby, both over 2,500m.
The Kranji Mile was the first feature race to be run behind closed doors due to Covid-19.
Initially scheduled for May 23 as an International Group 3 invitation event worth $1.5 million, it was postponed to yesterday and downgraded to a domestic Group 1 $1 million race.
It was also restricted to Singapore horses.
Hong Kong raider Southern Legend won the last two years and trainer Caspar Fownes had planned to return but said he understood the reason having to miss out the chance of the "three-peat" feat.