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."
S'PORE DERBY RESULTS
1 Infantry (Win: $28, place: $8)
2 Lim's Samurai ($22, length)
3 Nova Strike ($26, neck)
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."