It might well be the reduction of the 2,200-metre journey by a furlong that was the cause for a more pressing need to draw closer to the rails than further.
With 16 horses bearing down full-tilt at the first bend, a shorter run-up may pave the way to more frantic jostling for a good posie.
In that respect, Australian trainer Lee Freedman was the one who might have been dealt the best cards at Wednesday’s Post Position Draw Ceremony for Sunday’s $1.35 million Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) held at Clarke Quay. The Australian Hall of Fame trainer and current Singapore lamplighter in the trainer’s premiership pulled out the ace for Circuit Land and nine for Singapore Guineas winner Mr Clint.
Trainers Ricardo Le Grange and Stephen Gray engage a foursome each (including one standby starter in Mighty Kenny for Le Grange), but somehow, looked happy with their eclectic mix of alleys. If one looks at their teams, stamina does not seem to be an unknown quantity in either one of the eight.
Another handler who was in a good mood was Cliff Brown. While he made the call himself not to run his two-Leg winner Debt Collector, hence foregoing their golden chance of making history with a first Triple Crown winner, having just the one runner in Elite Excalibur probably diminished the stress factor by more than 50%.
And when owner Aloysius Chew’s galloper drew two with only two berths left on the stage, Brown could head home for a good night’s sleep.
Chew, on the other hand, could use a few more cans of Dester beer at the Fountain Square bar. His second runner, Elite Invincible, who is prepared by Singapore champion trainer Mark Walker drew the second-worst barrier – 19.
“What to do?” he lamented with a wry smile.
Regardless of barriers and how the weather pattern shapes up, there will ne nine trainers and 16 jockeys who will know what to do in the next four days – work out the best battle plan to reach that pot of gold.
CIRCUIT LAND, MR CLINT and CHAIRMAN (EA4) – Barriers No 1, 9 & 11
“I’m very happy with No 1 for Circuit Land. He’s the topweight and he’s never gone over 2000m, he will need a soft run and barrier No 1 will help him,” said trainer Lee Freedman of the Hong Kong-owned US-bred.
“He’s come close in the QEII Cup which is over 1800m, but it’s a handicap race this time. I don’t think he’s been in a handicap race for a long time.
“It’s a nice gate for Mr Clint. He will go forward as there aren’t too many horses (with speed) on his inside.
“As for Chairman, it’s immaterial as he won’t get a run.”
All that glitters: Barrier No 1 for Circuit Land is certainly gold for trainer Lee Freedman (right), as he tells MC Luke Marlow.
ELITE EXCALIBUR – Barrier No 2
“Two is good, no worries at all from there,” said trainer Cliff Brown. “Well done Christo (Bock, racing manager who drew the marble)!”
Jockey Michael Rodd, who combined with Brown last year for their first Singapore Gold Cup success aboard Gilt Complex, was just as rapt with the inside alley, and seems to have already mapped out an early strategy.
“We will probably end up on the fence behind Circuit Land,” said the Australian jockey.
“We will be following Circuit Land. Whoever is riding Circuit Land (Ruan Maia), I hope he rides him well.”
CLAUDIA’S BEAUTY – Barrier No 3
“Three is certainly better than barriers No 19 and No 20, which they just drew before me,” said apprentice jockey Troy See who will ride the Daliapour mare for the first time.
“I’ve never ridden her but I know she will stay all day. I rode her in trackwork and she’s immaculate.”
Trainer Leslie Khoo might not have used such epithets to describe the Lucky Stable-owned mare, but was certainly oozing a certain degree of confidence after the favourable draw.
“I’m happy with the draw. She will have a ground-saving run from that barrier,” said the former top jockey who has yet to break his duck in a feature race in Singapore in 11 years of training at Kranji.
You Beauty: Troy See makes sure what he sees is not a dream - No 3 for Claudia's Beauty.
TWICKENHAM, SKY ROCKET, LIM’S MAGIC and BAHANA – Barriers No 4, 5, 16 & 17
“I think four is good for Twickenham as he’s a horse who likes to run on the speed,” said trainer Stephen Gray.
“Sky Rocket has also got a good draw as he can go wherever he wants from there.
“Lim’s Magic will come back from that wide barrier. We will just have to ride him quiet.
“And for Bahana, he can be ridden forward or back, it doesn’t matter. In any case, I’m just happy to have four horses in the Gold Cup, it’s fantastic.”
Launch at five: Trainer Stephen Gray has wife Bridget to thank for after she brought her lucky hand -No 5 for Sky Rocket.
PREDITOR and BLUE SWEDE – Barriers No 6 & 14
“Preditor will be back in midfield. If he gets the right run, he will be in with a chance,” said trainer Shane Baertschiger who also owns Preditor, and had his daughter Jade as his lucky charm at the draw.
“Good work, Jade!”
His assistant-trainer Scott Bailey was less complimentary of his own hand later on.
“It’s not my best work,” said the Australian former jockey after he dipped his hand in for Blue Swede and came up with gate No 14.
“He’s an old stayer, he will get back and if he’s right on the day, he will run well. He ran third in the Gold Cup two years ago.
“If he gets a clear run on the outside, he will motor home. He wants to stay.
“Preditor has drawn well. He beat Debt Collector a few starts back (Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy over 1400m) and Matthew Poon has won two from two on him.”
My precious girl: Trainer Shane Baertschiger brings daughter Jade on stage to pick Preditor's barrier.
MAJESTIC MOMENTS, NOAH FROM GOA, MIGHTY KENNY (EA1) and KING LOUIS – Barriers No 7, 8, 12 & 13
“I’m happy with all the four draws. Majestic Moments and Noah From Goa have drawn in the middle next to each other and from there, it gives both more options,” said trainer Ricardo Le Grange.
“A lot will depend on the pace and the state of the track. I think Noah From Goa will stay, with a bit of luck in the running he’ll be there, and ditto for Majestic Moments.
“King Louis has got a good draw in 13. It will suit his racing pattern as it’s better he’s not drawn on the inside. Mighty Kenny’s drawn on his inside, he will need luck in the running if he gets in.”
As usual, Le Grange had his two stable jockeys Nooresh Juglall (Noah From Goa) and Barend Vorster (Majestic Moments) at the draw, and they both shouldered the responsibility of picking the stall numbers for their respective mounts.
“Noah From Goa got a nice barrier. His last gallop was good, he’s won over 1800m and the 2000m should be even better for him,” said Juglall.
“He has maintained his form since his last run in the QEII Cup (fifth to Debt Collector). It’s his biggest test, but I think he should be thereabouts.”
Vorster was just as bullish after he drew seven for Majestic Moments, a regular bridesmaid in feature races, the latest being his closing second to Debt Collector in the QEII Cup.
“Majestic Moments is such an honest genuine sort. He seems to be back into it,” said the South African rider.
“I’m very happy with his condition and this draw is perfect for him.”
King Louis’s owner Steve Levar was the one who pulled marble No 13 on stage. The former Singapore Turf Club race caller and now iRACE Magazine boss was a little in two minds with his draw.
“It’s a 2000m race and the barriers are not all that critical. Ideally, he should have drawn wider so he can drop back on the fence,” said the Australian owner.
“It could have been worse. He’s got Glen Boss riding him, he’s won a Gold Cup before (Risky Business in 2010) and he’s done nothing wrong with him.
“It’s all up to Ricardo and Glen now. I’ve done my part in paying the training bills!”
Royal selection: Steve Levar, owner of King Louis, hopes 13 will be his lucky number on Sunday.
MAKANANI (EA2) – Barrier No 10
“It’s not a bad draw at all,” said jockey Olivier Placais who did the honours at the draw for the Hideyuki Takaoka-trained mare.
“But it might not make any difference as the problem now is for her to get a run.”
SECRET WIN – Barrier No 15
“It won’t really matter that much. He’s a horse who gets back, anyway,” said trainer Daniel Meagher, who had his No 1 supporter in his arms at the draw, son Caiden.
“We’ve had to turn his form around as he’s lost his way a little. Let’s hope the local rider Saifudin Ismail can do a good job on him.”
MCGREGOR and SONG TO THE MOON (EA3) – Barriers No 18 & 20
“It doesn’t matter McGregor drew that wide. He will roll forward and hopefully, he can get a nice run,” said McGregor’s first-time partner A’Isisuhairi Kasim who struck paydirt in the same Graham Mackie colours with the late Gilt Complex in the Group 1 Raffles Cup last year.
“He has only 51.5kgs on his back and hopefully that can take him a long way.”
Trainer Michael Clements’ assistant-trainer Michael ‘Chopsy’ White was doing his best to find a positive spin to the two ordinary gates he drew himself and was hoping won't put his job in jeopardy.
“It is what it is. McGregor will roll forward no matter where he jumps from, he’s in the best form of his career,” said the Australian horseman.
“It’s not that important where he is drawn. Of course, it would have been better to draw in, we’ll see how he goes.
“If he gets to the front, he will make his own luck. We can control the race, but we can’t control the barriers.
“Song To The Moon is in good nick, but he’s unlikely to get in, anyway.”
ELITE INVINCIBLE – Barrier No 19
“It’s a bit of a shock,” said trainer Mark Walker.
“He didn’t have the best prep and now he gets this wide barrier. I can only hope for a bit of luck in the running.
“If it rains, he might as well stay home in his box.”