The 25-year-old lass is currently in town as the latest Dux of the South Australian Apprentice Academy to benefit from a long-standing deal struck between Thoroughbred Racing South Australia and the Singapore Turf Club in the last 10 years.
Since her Kranji debut on May 31, last season’s South Australian metropolitan champion apprentice jockey had gone through 14 winless rides, mostly lesser chances, finishing out of the placings at her first 13 until she got a closer whiff of that first elusive victory at her last assignment before getting the leg-up on What's New .
It was aboard Gold Kingdom in the $30,000 Class 5 race over 1700m for a first podium finish in second spot.
No doubt her booking in Sunday’s highlight, $398 shot What’s New, would not have inspired much confidence among most pundits that she would break her duck this time round, but when Clark herself walked into the parade ring, there was a bit of spring in her step.
The coveted barrier No 1 was the main reason behind the silent hope, even if any serious form analyst worth his salt would have probably told you the daughter of Casino Prince was no slouch either.
A progressive sort with four wins (1200m to 1600m) under her belt, What’s New has been running in solid form of late – two closing thirds to Mikki Joy (1600m) and Circuit Mission (1800m) at her last two starts Class 2 company.
Her inclusion in the bumper 16-horse field of the Silver Bowl, the new first instalment of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge, was totally justified but against the likes of stablemate Mister Yeoh, favourite Quarter Back, impressive debut winner Beau Geste among others, it was generally perceived she would have to lift to another level even from the ground-saving run she would likely enjoy from the inside alley.
But the race panned out like a charmed run from the outset.
After a smart jump, What’s New slotted nicely into the perfect box-seat behind Circuit Mission (Callan Murray) who himself was snapping at the heels of leader Eye Guy (Daniel Moor) while Mister Yeoh was not as lucky after being sooled forward by Michael Rodd from barrier No 15 to take up a forward spot off Michael Clements’ bold frontrunner Eye Guy.
The son of Bradbury’s Luck still gave some sight upon straightening, but it soon became apparent he would be hard-pushed to stay in front at the 400m.
At that moment, Clark had peeled What’s New out in search of daylight. Showing a great poise that belied her age, the winner of over 300 races between Adelaide and Tasmania didn’t panic, knowing she had a lapful under her, just waiting for a gap, which soon appeared between Mister Yeoh and the weakening Eagle Eye (Joseph Azzopardi).
Favourite Quarter Back (Vlad Duric) and Sacred Croix (Benny Woodworth) were still in the mix as they launched their challenges, but they were clearly outsprinted by the two girls!
What’s New knuckled down to the task to go and score by one length from Sacred Croix. After doing all the bullocking work, Eye Guy was entitled to bow out of the race, but he surpassed himself to hang on for third place another neck away, a head from Heliosphere (Matthew Kellady).
“It’s a great way to win my first race in Singapore,” said an elated Clark at the winning presentation.
“This is probably my biggest thrill in racing. To be here winning a race means so much, and to do it in a Group race goes beyond my wildest dreams.
“Cliff did tell me she was a very tough mare, very genuine. When we drew one, I was quietly confident.
“We got on the back of another horse (Circuit Mission) with a beautiful run. She’s done no work throughout.
“At the top of the straight, I had plenty of horse. When she saw daylight, she started to quicken really well and at the 200m I knew I had the race won.
“She was very gutsy to the line.”
Clark said she had kept faith in her ability all along even if she had gone through 14 rides without winning in Singapore.
“I was just biding my time. I knew my turn would come up eventually,” said Clark who rides at the next two Kranji meetings on June 14 and 15 before heading back to Adelaide.
“I was happy with my rides. I’ve been getting a few bad rides, but someone’s got to ride them, and I’m glad I’ve finally got on top of a good one today.”
While the attention had all along been more focused on Brown’s Mister Yeoh and Argentinian Group 1 winner Elite Quarteto, the Australian handler let in he had never underestimated What’s New as the third stringer.
“I was actually quite sure she would run enormous,” he said.
“She’s such a genuine mare, she tries hard. At her last runs, she came up with the best closing sectionals.
“Today, she was travelling the whole way, and when the run presented itself, she took it up nicely.
“She’ll go for the second Leg for sure and I hope she can get into the Derby as well. Mister Yeoh can be forgiven, he had to be used up and he overraced.”
The second Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge is the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) on June 30 while the grand final, the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) will be run on July 21.
With that fifth win from 15 starts, What’s New has now racked up around $330,000 in prizemoney for the Tarnpirr Stable.
The winning time was 1min 22secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.