| At a time when jockeys are hard to come by, trainer Stephen Gray was pretty chuffed he was able to secure the services of three world-class jockeys for his Singapore Gold Cup team of runners on November 11. Karis Teetan, Craig Williams and William Pike are the three big names booked to ride his trio of Lim’s Magic, Sky Rocket and Bahana respectively in the $1.35 million Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m). While Teetan’s and Williams’ one-day licence has already been approved and granted, Pike’s is yet to be received.
Mauritian-born Teetan currently sits second (20 wins) to reigning Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton (23 wins), and already has a similar Group pitstop mission ticked off for Gray – Lim’s Cruiser in the Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m) in 2016.
Williams needs no introduction either. Globetrotting seven-time Melbourne champion jockey who, just like Teetan, flew in at the same time in 2016, landing the Singapore Gold Cup aboard Bahana for Gray.
Perth champion Pike is simply known as the Best from the West. The prolific rider has 10 titles under his belt, and has again bolted clear on the premiership. Though he has yet to land a big race at Kranji, he has been one of those regular top guns for hire, coming agonisingly close aboard Lim’s Samurai in last year’s Emirates Singapore Derby and Bahana in last year’s Singapore Gold Cup.
“I was able to get the three best jockeys in their respective jurisdictions for my horses – Hong Kong, Melbourne and Perth,” said Gray.
“I don’t have much of a choice. There aren’t many lightweight jockeys here, and we currently have a shortage of jockeys (mainly through suspension), period.
“The owners wanted to put these jockeys on and I’m more than happy to get them over. They are top class jockeys, and two of them, Craig and Karis, already won Group races for me while William came close on Bahana last year.”
Even if two-Leg winner Debt Collector will be hard to stop him in his historic bid for the clean sweep in the third Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series, the Gold Cup, Gray said his trio of runners are peaking at the right time and will certainly be worth the price of the jockeys’ air-tickets.
Of the three, Bahana may be the one with the least glowing formline, having finished out of the placings in both Legs, the Raffles Cup (1600m) and Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m), but Gray has not written off his 2016 winner, even if he would have preferred the old 2200m trip.
“This year, the Gold Cup is run over 2000m, which will be a disadvantage for Bahana, who’s an out-and-out stayer,” said the Kiwi conditioner.
“He just got beat last year. He’s a different type of horse from the other two, but he’s had the right prep to slip into the handicap.
“The other two are two nice young handicappers coming through. The trip is no problem for Lim’s Magic, even if I’m not sure it’s his best distance.
“He ran third in the Derby over 1800m. He has no weight on his back and is probably a year away from being a Weight-for-Age horse.
“It was probably a mistake to run him in the Weight-for-Age race (Raffles Cup). He didn’t get the best of rides, but he still went good (sixth just over three lengths off Debt Collector).
“We missed last week’s race (Queen Elizabeth II Cup) to concentrate on the Gold Cup. Mr Lim (Siah Mong) sponsors the race and he likes to have a runner in it.
“Sky Rocket probably had the best preparation of them all. He’s going really well.
“At his last race (when a flying head second to King Louis in a Class 2 race over 1800m), he got held up and that probably cost him a fraction. He overraced at the start, he jumped too good.
“But he’s had a nice preparation, and with the light weight, he will be in with a chance.”
Gray actually has a fourth potential Gold Cup contender waiting in the wings, dual Group 3 Committee’s Prize (1600m) winner Twickenham.
“I haven’t decided yet if Twickenham will run. He’s in good form and working well,” said Gray.