Last-start emphatic winner Zac Kasa was all the rage showing single-digit odds from the first bell to barrier-rise at Kranji last night, but fell victim to another last-start winner, Lord O'Reilly, in a very fast-run sprint.
The kamikaze pace set by Zac Kasa - 22.70sec for the first 400m - enabled the winner to cover the 1,200m on the short course in 1min 09.28sec, just 1.44sec outside the record set by Hong Kong's Sacred Kingdom in the KrisFlyer International Sprint in 2009.
Mind you, Lord O'Reilly was having only his third Kranji start and running only in an $85,000 Novice event which augurs well for his future.
Winning trainer Leslie Khoo, whose stable has been firing in all cylinders recently, admitted he was in a rush to qualify his charge for the final two legs of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge - the $500,000 Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic over 1,400m on April 22 and the $1 million Group 1 Singapore Guineas over 1,600m on May 26.
The former jockey knew the drop in trip from 1,400m to 1,200m would favour the Cliff Brown-trained Zac Kasa, who started at $9 for a win to Lord O'Reilly's $32. But, cleverly, he added the blinkers to spur his New Zealand-bred up and the move paid off handsomely.
Zac Kasa flew the gates and soon opened up a three-length lead at breakneck speed, which could be his undoing. Impressive debut winner Loving You hunted the leader, followed a length behind by Boy Wonder and Hyde Park, both also last-start winners. Then only came the MA Racing No. 2 Stable-owned Lord O'Reilly.
Zac Kasa was well clear on straightening. Loving You, Boy Wonder and Hype Park tried desperately but could not get near the runaway leader. Then, on the outside, jockey Ryan Curatolo managed to drive Lord O'Reilly home at full throttle to beat Zac Kasa by half a length.
"He's a very nice horse. I bought him as a yearling for NZ$75,000 (S$71,000) for the owner," said Khoo, who saddled Basilisk to atone for his last four costly failures in the preceding race.
"In fact, I wanted to qualify him for the Guineas, you know, so I trialled him with blinkers which I thought would sharpen him up and the jockey said he went well.
"He was coming back from 1,400m to 1,200m and the gear would spur him up, as I know Zac Kasa is very fast and the only way to chase him is to use the blinkers."
Curatolo said the niggling doubt was the drop in distance but the blinkers did the trick.
"Definitely, the distance was the question mark. Last time, we put the side winkers and I told the trainer he would be less strong over 1,400m with it. This time, over the shorter distance, we put the blinkers and we did the right thing, you know. The horse really put in something special.
"At the 600m, when the leader opened up, he was hard to catch but my horse really showed his acceleration. He's definitely better over 1,400m and 1,600m but today he was impressive."
Friday's South Africa results
1st 1 Alfeo ($35-$15)
1st 10 Say No More ($18-$9)
3rd 3 Born A Bully ($9)
4th 6 Adalfieri
Place Forecast (1-10) $23, (1-3) $26, (3-10) $13
Tierce (1-10-3) $704, (10-1-3) $1,174
Quartet No winner
($706 jackpot carried forward to next race)
1st 1 Chit Chat ($60-$16)
2nd 4 Another Night ($8)
3rd 5 Tricia Dupont (No 3rd dividend)
4th 3 Tiffindell
Scratching: 2 Bonne Vie
1st 3 Tombodi ($37-$11)
2nd 2 The Goon Show ($14)
3rd 8 Irish Brave ($13)
4th 1 Peg Of Zeus
Place Forecast (2-3) $40, (3-8) $42, (2-8) $28
Quartet No winner ($408 carried forward)
1st 1 Romano ($16-$7)
2nd 7 Big Jay's ($7)
3rd 4 The Dictator ($25)
4th 5 Conquering King
Place Forecast (1-7) $5, (1-4) $32, (4-7) $27
Quartet No winner ($5,374 carried forward)
1st 2 Seeking Wisdom ($17-$8)
2nd 7 Kazuri ($11)
3rd 4 Mocha To Go (No 3rd dividend)
4th 5 Abbeleigh
Place Forecast Refund
Scratching: 6 Green Ballerina
1st 7 Seattle Swing ($25-$8)
2nd 5 Grandissimo ($7)
3rd 3 Tin Soldier ($10)
4th 1 Western Wu
Place Forecast (5-7) $6, (3-7) $9, (3-5) $9