It has been a start-stop season so far for jockey Michael Rodd but he put those injury interruptions behind him with a sensational victory in yesterday's Emirates Singapore Derby.
The 34-year-old Australian hoop timed his late charge aboard Well Done perfectly to overhaul front runner Majestic Moments (Nooresh Juglall) in the final 50m of the 2,000m Group 1 race.
The New Zealand-bred gelding crossed the winning post in 2min 3sec, with three-quarters of a length to spare from his nearest challenger. Rockfast (Manoel Nunes) was third and a further 11/2 lengths behind on the Long Course at the Singapore Turf Club.
Rodd, who has missed several months of racing owing to knee, ankle and heel injuries, was emotional after returning to scales.
The 2007 Melbourne Cup-winning jockey (Efficient) said: "It's been a rough year for me with all the problems I've had so to win such a big race is a really special moment."
S’PORE DERBY RESULTS
1 Well Done (Win: $29, place: $10)
2 Majestic Moments ($15; 3/4
3 Rockfast ($12; 11/2)
4 Mr Spielberg
Forecast: $62. Tierce: $605. Trio: $119
The fierce embrace he shared with winning trainer David Kok also also showed how much the Derby win meant for the low-profile Singaporean handler.
It was the third Derby win for a local trainer in the last five editions (Desmond Koh in 2012 and John O'Hara in 2014) and Kok, who manages a modest stable of about only 20 horses, hailed it as the biggest breakthrough of his seven-year career.
His first feature race title came at the 2013 Kranji Mile and he has won two more since (2014 JBBA Moonbeam Vase and last month's Patron's Bowl). He added: "Well Done is the best horse I've ever had. He's so easy to train and always gives me everything in his races."
In 16 previous starts, the strapping chestnut galloper has won six times and finished outside the placings (top four) on just three occasions.
It was a triumph in horse management for Kok, who gained his licence in 2009. Well Done had raced just once over the 10-furlong trip (finishing a respectable third in March) and there had been question marks about his stamina.
Kok, 43, admitted to having a sleepless week as he had kept Well Done's preparations to a minimum, hoping the four-year-old would be fresh for the gruelling Derby.
Under Rodd's guidance, Well Done settled comfortably in the middle of the 16-horse field for much of the race, as Time Odyssey (Olivier Placais) took an early lead.
From his ideal position next to the rails, Well Done could save his energy until the final 300m when Rodd steered him around the bunched pack and chased down Juglall.
With a clear path along the home straight, Mauritian Juglall was already dreaming of lifting the trophy but was surprised by the powerful burst of Well Done.
He said: "I thought I had the best horse and he was going well under me. But Well Done came out of nowhere and beat me on the line."
Kok's strategy of low-intensity workouts was an inspired move, said Rodd. He added: "We just kept it cool and ran a very patient race. I knew he had plenty of speed left and the last 50m I just gunned it and the horse flew home."