Horse racing: Infantry soldiers to Singapore Derby win

Infantry, with jockey Manoel Nunes aboard, leading (from left) Nova Strike, Lim's Samurai and Alibi en route to winning the Singapore Derby at Kranji. Alibi finished fourth in his bid for a Four-Year-Old Challenge sweep.
Infantry, with jockey Manoel Nunes aboard, leading (from left) Nova Strike, Lim's Samurai and Alibi en route to winning the Singapore Derby at Kranji. Alibi finished fourth in his bid for a Four-Year-Old Challenge sweep.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Top trainer Alwin Tan makes up for War Affair's narrow loss in this race two years ago

Trainer Alwin Tan finally exorcised the ghost of his 2015 Emirates Singapore Derby loss with a victory yesterday as Infantry marched home to capture the country's oldest horse race.

The New Zealand-bred gelding, ridden by jockey Manoel Nunes, clocked a winning time of 2min 2.29sec to finish a length clear of Lim's Samurai (William Pike) with Nova Strike (Derreck David) a neck behind in third.

Not only was it Tan's first triumph at the Group 1 Derby, a $1.15 million race over 2,000m, but it comes two years after his former star horse War Affair narrowly lost by a neck to Quechua in the 2015 edition.

That ended War Affair's bid to become the first horse to sweep all three legs of the Four-Year-Old Challenge.

Tan, who last year became the first Singaporean in 13 years to claim the trainer's premiership, was emotional as he savoured the moment.

He said: "I think it's the biggest race I've ever won. I have to thank my wife for drawing (barrier) six.

"I didn't have to tell Nunes what to do as he knows the horse so well. When they landed in fifth or sixth on the rails, I knew they would have a good chance.

"There are no words to describe how I'm feeling right now."

Jockey Manoel Nunes steering Infantry to victory in yesterday's Group 1 $1.15 million Emirates Singapore Derby. Alibi, seeking to become the first horse to sweep the Four-Year-Old Challenge, finished fourth in the 2,000m race at the Singapore Turf Cl
Jockey Manoel Nunes steering Infantry to victory in yesterday's Group 1 $1.15 million Emirates Singapore Derby. Alibi, seeking to become the first horse to sweep the Four-Year-Old Challenge, finished fourth in the 2,000m race at the Singapore Turf Club. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

  • S'PORE DERBY RESULTS

  • 1 Infantry (Win: $28, place: $8)

    2 Lim's Samurai ($22, length)

    3 Nova Strike ($26, neck)

    4 Alibi

    Forecast: $93

    Tierce: $4,148.00

    Trio: $777

He was thrilled with the performance of Infantry, who notched his eighth win from 20 starts and has now earned more than $1 million in prize money.

Tan said: "He's a real worker. He's got a big heart and ran a fantastic race."

Brazilian hoop Nunes was equally effusive in his praise for Infantry. The three-time Singapore champion jockey, who recently return from ankle surgery, said: "I know this horse really well, and he gave me such great confidence.

"Today, he just showed me where to go, he is so professional.

"At the 700m, I had a lot of horse under me, and when the gaps opened, he just pulled away to a big break.

"He got a bit tired in the end but he had enough left in the tank to last it out.

"To come back in three weeks and win after they put a screw (in my ankle), it's unbelievable."

While Tan wrote his name into the history books, it was a different story for fellow trainer Michael Clements who saddled Alibi, one of the pre-race favourites.

The bay stallion had won the Stewards' Cup and Patron's Bowl earlier, and was chasing a clean sweep of the Four-Year-Old Challenge.

Alibi eventually finished fourth in the 15-horse field, two lengths behind Infantry.

Despite the loss, Clements was proud of his runner's efforts and said the 10 furlongs was a step too far for Alibi, who had never attempted a 2,000m race before.

He added: "The horse travelled well and ran a great race. The jockey (Glen Boss) told me with 400m to go the horse had just about enough.

"It's too far for him."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2017, with the headline 'Infantry soldiers to Derby win'. Print Edition | Subscribe