New order of the Sun begins for Koh

The Singapore Derby heroics are long gone now, but trainer Desmond Koh is confident enough recent high-profile stable transfer Sun Marshal has not come to him at the tail-end of his racing career.

Sun Marshal winning the SINGAPORE DERBY
Sun Marshal winning the SINGAPORE DERBY Picture: Singapore Turf Club

The 2019 Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) winner is one of four horses – all raced by Macau-based Sun Bloodstock Racing Stable - to have moved from just-departed trainer Lee Freedman, and clearly the only one from the top drawer.

Sun Palace, Sun Ace and Sun General have scored only one win apiece in the lower grades when trained by the Australian Hall of Fame trainer, but it's Sun Marshal  who is the hard act to follow.  

The 95-point rater may not have saluted in nine subsequent starts (mostly in Group events) after his Derby win in July 2019, but his class earned him three placings, including a spirited head-second to Aramaayo when ridden by Ryan Munger in the first Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown, the Group 1 Raffles Cup (1600m) in October.

Unfortunately, the Sepoy six-year-old didn't perform with the same dash in the two remaining Legs, the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Cup (1800m) and Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) at his last start on November 21, giving rise to conjecture the three-time winner, who also scored twice (once in Caulfield) in Australia when prepared by Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott and known as Han Xin, has seen better days.

Koh, whose string of 45-odd horses features 20 from Sun Bloodstock, concedes that Sun Marshal may not carry the same glow from two years ago, but reckons that an engine is still humming under the bonnet.

Ridden by Noh Senari, the chestnut ran his first barrier trial for Koh on Thursday, settling forward before easing off late to run a pleasing fourth to up-and-coming sprinter Moon Face, a performance which might not have been lip-smacking, but which was encouraging enough.

"He did okay, it was more of a tightener," said Koh.

"He's been with me for two weeks. He hasn't raced since the Gold Cup, so he needed that first barrier trial.

"Noh told me everything was okay, even if he was not at his peak yet. He will definitely need one more barrier trial before he races.

"I haven't picked a race yet, but I've worked out his programme towards the Kranji Mile on May 22. So, he'll probably have a couple of runs before that race.

"Obviously, he's come to me with some mileage in the legs. He's not new anymore, but he's still got an engine.

"If class prevails, good horses like that can still win races. The only thing we can do is to keep them sound and fit."

Koh was appreciative of Mr Cheng Ting Kong's decision to send his former Freedman horses to him, even if it stood to reason he would be the recipient given that the Sun Bloodstock boss never had horses with anyone else at Kranji.

"Mr Cheng has been a friend of mine for a long time. I really appreciate what he's done for me," said the US-trained handler who won a 'black type' for the Macau businessman, the Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes (1700m) when Order Of The Sun dead-heated with Best Tothelign in 2015, but whose highest acclaim came in the 2012 Emirates Singapore Derby (2000m) with Chase Me.

"I hope I can keep the flag flying high for Mr Cheng."

Singapore Turf Club