A pulsating win as a $197 chance in the 2017 Group 3 El Dorado Classic (2200m) saw the son of Haradasun spring from left field as a live outsider in last year’s renewal of the Gold Cup, then staged over 2200m.
Secret Win lost, but neither was he trounced, finishing eighth, around less than five lengths off the winner Gilt Complex.
There was always next year, thought Meagher, but the two Gold Cup trails could not have been more contrasting.
It did get off to a flier with a first-up win in June over a distance not made to suit - a Class 2 race over 1200m.
Again, he was friendless at $243, but the promising start went all pear-shaped thereafter.
After an okay fifth to Noah From Goa in a Kranji Stakes A race over 1800m, Secret Win finished among the also-rans at his next two outings, both at Group 3 level, the Moonbeam Vase (1600m) and a failed bid at back-to-back El Dorado Classics (shortened to 2000m).
Such lacklustre runs don’t usually bode well for a shot at Gold, but Meagher is still clinging to a hope the Secret Win from the 2017 El Dorado Classic vintage will rise again in the $1.35 million Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) on Sunday.
“I think I got him to peak too early. He had three barrier trials going into his first race from a break,” said the young Australian handler.
“He won brilliantly first-up. He ran above expectations, but in hindsight, he was too ready.
“He ran very good second-up, too. He came off a slow pace and ran on well in the end.
“At his third start (Moonbeam Vase), he had excuses as he was on the inside part, which didn’t suit as he loves a bit of room. He was flattish to the line.
“It went into a downward spiral from there to the El Dorado Classic, where he was always out at the back.
“I’ve since tinkered with his training to try and get him back. I have put the visors on him in a barrier trial to sharpen him up and he will race in them on Sunday.
“(Apprentice jockey) CS (Chee Seng) Chin gave me good feedback on his gallop on Thursday. It was a short and sharp hit-out, as I have to manage his legs which had problems before, and that’s why I’m hoping for rain on Sunday.”
The awkward alley in 15 does not faze Meagher too much, the postage-stamp weight of 50kgs is a positive, but at the end of the day, it’s the engine that counts.
“The question mark is if I have done enough to bring him back to his best,” said the youngest son of former Singapore Gold Cup-winning trainer John Meagher (Kim Angel in 2000).
“I have prepared him for this run, that’s his goal, that’s his grand final. He’s sound, he’s happy, the barrier is no concern as he gets back; the only thing is I had him too ready early.
“Hopefully, I’ve got him back because at his best, I think he has the ability to run a serious race with only 50kgs on his back. It’s quite an open Gold Cup this year, so you never know.
“It would be a fairytale if a local rider like Saifudin (Ismail) could win a Gold Cup on him because Saifudin won a Group 1 race, the Raffles Cup, for my old man on Lim’s Classic in 2006.”
From Lim’s Classic to Natural Impulse (Saifudin rode him to seven wins for Meagher Jnr), the veteran Malaysian jockey and the Meaghers go back a long way.
“I’ve known Dan from the time he was a young man riding trackwork for his dad when they first arrived in 1999,” said Saifudin who has yet to win a Singapore Gold Cup.
“I helped his father when he started out and they supported me with rides. I’ve maintained the good relationship when Dan returned as a trainer two years ago.
“It’s great I got a ride for Dan in the Gold Cup. I’ve never ridden Secret Win, not even in trackwork, but I know he’s a horse who doesn’t like to run on the inside.
“He needs to switch off at the back. From that barrier, he will be around three deep, and let’s hope he can get a clear run on the outside, before the corner.”
Saifudin’s ride on Secret Win came about after regular partner Benny Woodworth elected to ride Elite Invincible for trainer Mark Walker instead.