The Jupiter Gold of old sparkled in the $1.15 million Emirates Singapore Derby at Kranji yesterday, preventing Elite Invincible from achieving the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge triple crown.
Racing after enjoying a short spell and re-trained from scratch, the former star juvenile produced his trademark turn of foot to beat Elite Invincible by 11/4 lengths in the 1,800m Group 1 feature.
Elite Invincible, the $14 favourite, stood to win a $150,000 bonus if he had completed a clean sweep of the $500,000 Group 2 Stewards' Cup, $1 million Giovanni Racing Charity Bowl and the Singapore Derby.
From looking like a winner at the top of the straight, the Mark Walker-trained, Irish-bred contender nearly lost second placing, finishing only a short head in front of Lim's Magic.
Jupiter Gold's victory gave trainer Hideyuki Takaoka his third Derby, after Jolie's Shinju (2009) and Better Life (2013). It was jockey Olivier Placais' first Group 1 success. The Takaoka-Placais combination had a good day, also winning with Higher Soul and Makanani.
But it was Jupiter Gold that gave them the greatest satisfaction. After all, the Australian-bred galloper had run below par towards the end of last season, culminating in an 11th placing in theSingapore Gold Cup (2,200m) last November.
The brown gelding was then spelled and brought back to racing in mid-February over 1,400m first-up. After two more unplaced runs over 1,600m, Jupiter Gold bounced back with a scintillating victory over the Polytrack 1,200m on June 10 and then finished a strong third to Elite Invincible in the Charity Bowl two weeks later.
EMIRATES SINGAPORE DERBY 2018
1 Jupiter Gold (Win: $34, place: $12)
2 Elite Invincible ($9, 11/4 lengths)
3 Lim's Magic ($29, short head)
4 Only Win (head)
Yesterday, Placais rode a masterful race, parking Jupiter Gold in a handy fourth position behind Lim's Regard, who led from Yulong Honor and Elite Invincible.
Champion jockey Vlad Duric made a daring move turning into the long straight and steered Elite Invincible to overtake Lim's Regard. Placais moved up in tandem. The Stephen Gray-trained $105 outsider Lim's Magic loomed up menacingly on the rails.
Responding to the whip, Jupiter Gold swept past Elite Invincible 250m out and went on to a deserving victory - his eighth in 21 starts.
"I'm very happy he finally won a Group 1 race. Actually, I was only worried about the distance. I thought the mile was his best distance but, in the last 200m, I knew he would win," said Takaoka.
Placais paid tribute to Takaoka and said he benefited from a nice trail behind Elite Invincible.
"The horse was not in form and Takaoka actually had a good idea to run him over short distances to wake him up and he showed he's a very good horse. You know, at the 300m, I knew the Group 1 would be mine," said the Frenchman.
"This is my first Group 1 in my career. I tell you, I'm on a cloud now. I'm just dreaming. It's amazing."