Working overtime three wide to keep in touch with the leaders, Strong N Powerful ($20) should have been a spent force when he staked his claim upon straightening.
Favourite Destroyer Eclipse (Vlad Duric), who had in the meantime wrested the lead back from a pesky Wecando (Simon Kok Wei Hoong), was giving no indication he would blow out anytime soon.
There wasn't really any big threats hailing from behind either.
The well-fancied Global Kid (Ruan Maia) looked dour after travelling one off in a handy spot behind the speed. Big finisher Hardcore (Patrick Moloney) was winding up, but he seemed too far back and not really pinging as expected.
It was decidedly looking like a wide open contest at the furlong pole with the small 10-horse field whacking away across the track, but Strong N Powerful, with only 53kgs on his back, proved to be just a shade more resilient as he kept punching through to prevail by half-a-length from Destroyer Eclipse.
Inherit (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) stuck on for third place another length away while Hardcore, a fast-closing fifth last time out, again landed too late, settling for fourth place another length away. The winning time was 1min 34.29secs for the 1600m on the Long Course.
"He's a really nice horse. He won a good race today," said winning trainer Leticia Dragon.
"He ran a good race with a big weight (59kgs) at his last start, and today, he had a light weight in strong company.
"The longer the better for him, 1600m to 1800m, but that will be for next year. For now, we will just get him to the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge and the Singapore Guineas over the mile."
Following a revamp to the racing calendar, the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge has from this year been scheduled at a later timeslot from June to July with the first Leg, the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint over 1200m due on June 13 and the last Leg, the Group 1 Singapore Guineas slated for July 26.
When asked if Strong N Powerful would have a say as a 3YO contender, van der Merwe said he might have the scope if he keeps improving the right way.
"He's on the small side, but he has so much heart. He's improving with every run, so he should have a say," said the South African lightweight jockey.
"He was sluggish at the start. As there was a lot of pace, he had no chance to get there.
"I dropped him back and he was caught wide. Leticia and the owner gave me a lot of confidence before the race, saying not to worry even if he was at the back.
"He was off the bit and I gave him a backhand. I gave him another slap behind and he was on the bit again."
A model of consistency in nine starts, Strong N Powerful has now taken his record to four wins and three thirds from nine starts for stakes earnings in excess of $155,000 for the Strong Stable.