Gray camp all pumped to cheer Hugo home again

Trainer Stephen Gray is looking forward to another day of fun with Hugo on Friday.

Hugo winning the CLASS 4
Hugo winning the CLASS 4 Picture: Singapore Turf Club

Hugo  is the horse who can be forgiven for getting a few more carrots and cuddles at the stable. He was home-bred in New Zealand by the Grays through their broodmare Princess Katie (named after Gray's daughter) who is herself by Go Getter, with both dam and grand dam being former Kranji gallopers he both trained.

As Hugo is treated almost like a family member, it is not surprising the adrenaline rush in the Gray camp was felt even more the 13 times he raced, and the joy just utterly indescribable when he won his three races – all on Polytrack.

The four-year-old son of Smart Missile makes his 2020 reappearance in the $70,000 Class 3 race over 1200m. It is tougher opposition compared to the Class 3 company he ran in over the same course and distance on December 8 when a close second to Salamence with Melbourne visiting jockey Beau Mertens up, but Gray still expects Hugo to give it another good go.

"He's had a good break, a good freshen-up, and he seems to be progressing well," said the New Zealander, who after a slow start, has seen his 2020 season gain traction with a Sunday double courtesy of Bear Witness and Lord Justice taking his tally to four winners.

"It's a strong race, but the last time, he also ran in a strong race and he was only beaten by the wide draw. He's drawn out again, which will make things tough for him again, but he's a trier and has given us so much happiness whenever he runs.

"We've bred him and that's what our passion for racing is all about. We enjoy that and just want to have a good time at the races with our own horses.

"Hugo's got another half-brother by Choisir who went very well in his trial, he looks promising.

"Another half-brother by Artie Schiller was just broken in, and we've also got another one by Dissident who just got weaned off."

Gray said that Hugo might have shown greater proficiency on the synthetic track thus far, but he still believes he is a versatile individual who can hopefully break his duck on turf one day.

"It's an interesting case. He actually showed terrific form on grass but couldn't quite win on it," he said.

"It's quite frustrating really, but when he runs on Polytrack, he just loves the surface and we haven't looked back.

"It's really bizarre because the horses who beat him are nowhere today whereas Hugo has gone on to better things. I think he has developed into a nice sprinter who can go to another level."

This Friday, Hugo has drawn 10 and will be partnered for the first time by John Powell, who is enjoying a successful start to 2020, having already ridden seven winners in spite of the restricted opportunities that his heavyweight status can't afford.

On Saturday, Gray is bringing another horse back from a spell, his 2016 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) winner Bahana. Unlike Hugo, the choices for a racing programme are a lot more constrained for the ageing son of Elusive City, but Gray thought why not roll with it in the $400,000 Group 2 Chairman's Trophy (1600m).

"Bahana ran very, very well in the Gold Cup (seventh to Mr Clint, but only less than three lengths off)," said Gray referring to the Dago Stable-owned galloper's fourth consecutive attempt in the Group 1 race, which has been shortened to 2000m since 2018.

"It's very hard to place him. The Chairman's Trophy will be too sharp for him, but there is a Class 2 race over 1800m in three weeks' time which will be just nice for him.

"We may then race him in a big race in Malaysia. (Owner) Untung (Joesoef) doesn't mind that, he actually wants Bahana to run there.

"If it doesn't work out, then he will retire and Untung will take him home to his farm in Indonesia."

But if it does, then there is every chance the old warrior who is now a rising nine and whose campaign in recent years has been solely tailored towards the November showpiece, will make an amazing bid No 5 at another Gold Cup tilt.

"If he runs well in Malaysia, we will then look at bringing him back for another Gold Cup," said Gray.

"He's sound and fit. It's just that there are no races for him here, except the Gold Cup."

Singapore Turf Club