Topweights draw favoured spots

A happy Lee Freedman, trainer of Circuit Land, after his horse got the first gate for Sunday's Gold Cup at last night's barrier draw. Right next door will line up Elite Excalibur, whose trainer Cliff Brown saddled last year's winner Gilt Complex.
A happy Lee Freedman, trainer of Circuit Land, after his horse got the first gate for Sunday's Gold Cup at last night's barrier draw. Right next door will line up Elite Excalibur, whose trainer Cliff Brown saddled last year's winner Gilt Complex.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Higher-ranked horses' trainers pleased but handicap evens out chances

The draw for the Dester Singapore Gold Cup being done and dusted, and the fountain at Clarke Quay returned to its preferred four-legged regulars - the party animals - last year's winning trainer, Cliff Brown, delivered a powerful statement of intent.

With his champion Debt Collector not running, the stable will rest their hopes on Elite Excalibur and last night he drew the favoured No. 2 spot. "From two, he will be able to work into a good position," said Brown. "I'm happy. It's a good spot. He's looking for this distance, so we're right in it."

Brown, of course, is no stranger to the Gold Cup. He won it last year with Gilt Complex and, in Elite Excalibur, he has a genuine shot at a double.

Like the rest, Brown had arrived early and, by sundown, the small talk had been done with. What nonchalance was just a cover. Beneath those smiles and banter, all were hoping that the draw for spots in the starting gates for the $1.35 million race would be kind to them.

An event like the Gold Cup is an opera. A drama. When the gates fly open, we are plunged right into the first act. And many believe the spot from where the horse jumps is of paramount importance.

After all, in theory, somewhere near the rails is preferred as it could mean the horse is afforded an economical run to the first turn. It's like cutting corners.

So they waited. Which one would the fountain bless?

Claudia's Beauty, a roughie in the race and trained by Leslie Khoo, came up with the a nice gate - three. Khoo was a satisfied customer, saying: "I'm really happy with the draw. At least, she can jump out and relax. She's in good condition and with her light weight, she should have every chance."

Anyway, as quickly as it began, it was over. From horse No. 1 Circuit Land, who drew No. 1 to bottomweight Chairman, who will jump from 11.

All that is now left is the main event. And, on Sunday, the talk will not be about the barrier draw.

As the owners and trainers simmer and sweat in the mounting yard, unable to disguise their sentimentality, to the regular Joe, it will be all about the horses and what they will do when the gates fly open.

The Gold Cup is known to throw up surprises and, being a handicap race, technically it means that any horse can win - whether jumping from the advantageous innermost chute or, as is referred to in jest, that sad spot "nearest the car park".

That said, let us remember that the measure of a true champion is his ability to overcome adversity - like a bad gate - and still run a darn good race.

So, by all means use the barrier positions as a guide. Then, my friend, go with your heart.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2018, with the headline 'Topweights draw favoured spots'. Print Edition | Subscribe