Progressive galloper Kharisma made it back-to-back wins even after being stepped up in grade in the $70,000 Class 3 race over 1200m on Polytrack on Sunday.
The Mossman four-year-old last scored at Class 4 level in a similar all-weather event over six furlongs, but was this time pitted against much better cattle, with Heartening Flyer (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) the most respected ahead of other established Class 3 horses like Magic Wand (Krisna Thangamani) and Gold Star (Marc Lerner), and smart class-rising peers such as Spirit Of Big Bang (Shafrizal Saleh).
In the end, Kharisma still beat them fair and square on the back of a smart winning display that speaks volumes about his untapped potential.
However, without taking anything away from trainer Stephen Gray’s latest stable star performer, Heartening Flyer probably lost the race because of a costly outermost alley in 12.
Trapped four deep even though Beuzelin did his best to keep the Excelebration four-year-old on a loose rein in a bid to save as much petrol as possible, the four-time winner unsurprisingly could not replicate his usual lethal turn of speed in the home straight.
Kharisma (Troy See), who on the other hand, benefitted from a softer run tracking up pacesetter Water Rocket (Juan Paul van der Merwe), gave plenty of sight when he skipped clear at the 300m.
The strides were noticeably more laboured, but Heartening Flyer dug down deep into his class to bravely cut down the margin inside the last 100m and run the winner down to two lengths. Another length astern, Spirit Of Big Bang and Magic Wand fought for third place which the former claimed by a short head.
Backed down into $38, Kharisma clocked 1min 11.23secs for the 1200m trip on the Polytrack. In 12 starts, Kharisma has now taken his record to five wins, two seconds and two thirds with earnings that have now surpassed the $200,000 mark for Indonesian outfit Dago Stable, owner of 2016 Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup winner Bahana.
At the post-race debrief, Gray reiterated his gratitude towards one of his most loyal owners while again expressing his sadness about the hollowness of such victories without the customary lead-ins and photo-taking sessions with the winning connections.
“He’s owned by good people I really cherish. Untung (Joesoef) has owned some slow ones, but he’s also owned some good ones like this one,” said the New Zealander.
“Untung has always supported our racing, but unfortunately, they are now stuck over in Indonesia. Hopefully, they can soon come back to the races. It would be great for everybody.”
Gray said Kharisma was a promising sort who could never be faulted for lack of trying, and was only beaten by bad luck.
“I was very impressed with today’s win. He’s a horse who’s enjoying his racing and is quite genuine,” he said.
“He wants more ground. He reminds me of Born To Fly (Group 2 EW Barker Trophy winner in 2014) who was also by Mossman.
“I thought he was in a strong race today, especially with Mike’s (Clements) horse (Heartening Flyer) in, but with the right horse, we showed we can beat them.
“He’s a horse that always tries hard but was beaten by bad luck before. Today, he got a drop of one kilo (from See’s claim), and he was able to go to another level.
“Troy sure can ride and the fact he can claim one kilo made the difference.”
A modest See played down his contribution by saying he was only the pilot applying the trainer’s instructions to the letter.
“The instructions were perfect. All the credit should go to Steve,” said the former Singapore champion apprentice jockey (2018).
“Nobody came across to go forward, so I took my own initiative to posie up outside the leader. The rest was pretty straightforward.”
Gray saddled a second horse in the day’s highlight but was conversely at a loss to explain stable favourite Hugo’s (Danny Beasley) last place.
“He had an ideal run behind the speed, but he was disappointing,” he said.
“One thing about this horse, though, is he’s never run a good race when he’s handy. Anyway, I will probably back him off now.”