Mauritian jockey Karis Teetan stole the thunder from his fellow Hong Kong resident jockey and bigger drawcard Joao Moreira by capturing the $350,000 Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m) with the Stephen Gray-trained Lim’s Cruiser on Friday night.
The pair were sent as special envoys by the Hong Kong Jockey Club to ride at the special Hong Kong-themed night headlined by the EW Barker Trophy in a bid to inject greater interest among the patrons in the former British colony.
The attention was evidently lopsided in the build-up to the night. One has a cult following, the other does ring a bell only to die-hard Hong Kong racing fans.
Moreira, the darling of Kranji, courtesy of his four champion jockey titles (2010-2013) and record-breaking seasons, unsurprisingly hogged the limelight among paparazzi and fans alike, ahead of his full book of nine rides, mostly leading fancies, including favourite Alibi in the EW Barker Trophy.
Lim’s Cruiser (Karis Teetan) rails though to claim the EW Barker Trophy in style.
Teetan is not an unknown to those who follow the goings-on at Sha Tin and Happy Valley, but was still completely dwarfed by Moreira. He still gained a decent book of five rides, of which Lim’s Cruiser and Murrayfield, also trained by Gray, stood out and to a lesser extent, Knight Chen Bay.
The South African-trained rider started off slow with The One in the opener, but slowly improved with two fourth places on Prechagorda and Knight Chen Bay, and then a close third on Murrayfield.
Teetan was only warming up to the task. He had saved the best for last.
Donning blinkers for the first time and carrying the luxury load of 50kg, his last ride, Lim’s Cruiser ($23) did not get off to the start that most thought a barrier No 2 would have afforded him. He did break smartly but was outsprinted in the early stages, with several horses showing better toe as they rushed forward.
In a suprising move, it was Jay Eff Express (Glen Boss) who speared over from the ‘carpark gate’ (16) to go and secure the leading role from on-pace sorts Spanish Bay (Olivier Placais) and Affleck (Danny Beasley) while Lim’s Cruiser dropped back to sit outside stablemate Raise No Doubt (Vlad Duric) before settling back onto the fence midrace.
Teetan then rode the Casino Prince four-year-old for luck from that point thereon. Under Boss’s urgings, Jay Eff Express was giving no indication he was close to shortening up, while the big guns were making inroads, namely Alibi and Storm Troops (Nooresh Juglall), with Magnum (Corey Brown) looming up as the potential late party-pooper right on the outside.
But back on the inner, in a less conspicuous spot, Lim’s Cruiser was raring to go but could not quite poke his head in, with Jay Eff Express barely leaving enough galloping room for him to capitalise on.
The EW Barker Trophy podium: (from left) trainer Stephen Gray, jockey Karis Teetan, and owner Mr Lim Siah Mong.
That was when Teetan showed that touch of class and temerity that belied his young age (26) to ditch the hemming and hawing. Pushing with a tremendous power that seemed incongruous with his lithe frame, Teetan showcased that trademark high-knee action and furious rowing arms, while maintaining a beautiful balance to the sum of all these parts.
But truth be told, he also had the right tool to help him: Lim’s Cruiser, a magnificent athletic invidual who responded in the best possible way with a scorching acceleration that sling shot him to the winning post, one-and-one-quarter length clear of a most gallant Jay Eff Express.
Magnum lost no marks either, producing his customary late surge to miss second spot by a nose, himself pipping Storm Troops by a similar margin. Fifth another three-quarter length away was Alibi, who again showed that inclination to hang in under pressure. The winning time was 1min 22.3secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.
But all honours to the brilliant winner who was bringing up a second EW Barker Trophy for Gray (Born To Fly in 2014), but a grand premiere for Teetan at his maiden Kranji visit, and also the all-conquering Lim’s Stable.
“I had a lot of confidence in this horse. He’s such a nice horse,” said Teetan at his very first post-race TV interview at Kranji.
“He gave me a good feeling in the run, but I was three or four metres off the rail in the back, and he was a bit keen. But luckily, he then dropped his head and came back underneath me.
“I had committed to the run on the inside and couldn’t pull back. I had to hold my fire as I couldn’t get a run and I was pretty scared he wouldn’t quicken away because of that.
“But once he found daylight, he lengthened up very well for a very nice solid win. He’s the type of horse who will keep improving with more racing.
“I have to thank the Hong Kong Jockey Club for giving me the permission to ride in Singapore, and also to the local support from the trainers, especially Mr Gray. The facilities here are great, as good as in Hong Kong.
“It’s been a wonderful opportunity as I can ride light, and I must also say a big thank you to Gareth Pepper (ex-Singapore Turf Club racing presenter) who was the first one to organise rides for me once he knew I was on my way here.
“Lim’s Cruiser was the very first horse he got for me.”
Teetan was not tasting his first hit-and-run overseas victory as last September, he flew to Korea specially to partner the Tony Millard-trained Super Jockey to an emphatic win in the 700 million won Group 1 Keeneland Korea Sprint (1200m).
Gray would be very thankful to both Teetan and Pepper as well, but at the 300m, he was close to looking the other way.
“I didn’t think he was going to win in the straight. He was not getting the run he wanted,” said the Kiwi handler, who just returned from the Karaka sale and had a husky voice, which he said he got from both cheering himself hoarse and from a flu bug he picked up in New Zealand.
“I told Karis the horse was a very good lightweight chance and from barrier No 2, he should ride him on the fence. I was quite happy when he dropped behind Raise No Doubt as I wasn’t sure Raise No Doubt would get the 1400m.
“He followed Raise No Doubt but then he couldn’t get up on the fence, but Karis, what a jockey he is! He kept punching him through and he knocked the door open in the end and the horse was too good.
“I’ve told Mr Lim Siah Mong that this horse was a Group 1 winner from Day 1 and he’s certainly right on his way after tonight’s win.
“Here I would like to thank my staff who have carried on for a week when I was not around. It’s been a pressure week for all, especially with the Gold Cup also coming up.
“A big thank you to Vlad Duric, who has kept riding Lim’s Cruiser in trackwork even though he cannot make the weight. He has also kept riding Newlands and Bahana (Gold Cup runners) in trackwork.
“It’s been a great team effort by all.”
Known as Cool Gambler in Australia where he raced once for a fifth at Doomben, Lim’s Cruiser was then sent to New Zealand where he showed marked improvement with a third place in a 1200m race at Avondale.
Since he moved to Kranji, Lim’s Cruiser has been an instant revelation. He has now notched four wins and three placings from seven outings for stakes money in excess of $330,000 for the Lim’s Stable.
Singapore Turf Club