Windsor Park-bred Singapore Horse of the Year Debt Collector (Thorn Park) showed he had no cobwebs to be blown away after he returned from a break to take out the $125,000 Canada Cup 2017 (1400m) in his trademark spectacular last-to-first style on Friday night.
Rested since his 2016 six-in-a-row juggernaut (actually an unbeaten run of seven wins that began in November 2015) that culminated with the Group 1 Raffles Cup (1800m) on October 30, the Thorn Park four-year-old was the one that blew his seven rivals away instead.
Punted down to $8 favouritism, Debt Collector (Michael Rodd) did jump on terms with the field, but as is his usual style, dropped back to bring up the rear like he was just hacking along in the first 500m or so.
But as the other contenders, headed by the leading duo of Kirks Ryker (Manoel Nunes) and Magnum (Glen Boss), started to jostle for their runs as they neared the home turn, Debt Collector had swiftly tacked on.
Upon straightening, Cliff Brown’s flying machine was all poised to round up his rivals as he was propelled to the outside with an explosive run that was again quite a sight to behold for any racing purist.
In one fell swoop, he stormed past from one end to another without giving his rivals the ghost of a chance to know what had just flashed past them.
Rodd in the end eased down on the champion galloper once he was well clear, though the gelding did seem to gawk around a few strides off the line. The winning margin was 1 ¼ lengths from Rafaello (Olivier Placais) with Magnum holding on for third place another half-a-length away. The winning time was 1min 22.28secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.
At the winner’s presentation, Rodd was again looking shellshocked by the blinding turn of foot that Kranji had just witnessed, even if he has been the privileged passenger of that magic carpet ride at six of his previous seven wins.
Catching his breath, the Australian jockey described that latest tour de force as his “softest” win yet.
“That was his softest win yet, but again, he is the type who is more switched on at the business end,” he said.
“He obviously would like to have more ground, but he’s got that amazing turn of foot he can sustain for a long time.
“He was switched off and running very relaxed in the first 1000m, but once I slapped him up, he switched on and got into second gear.
“I could really feel him coming back underneath me. It’s just amazing how he does that.
“As he tracked up so nicely, I let him creep up closer and his turn of foot was just exceptional in the end, though he did pull up on me close home.
“Whether he has improved from his last campaign is hard to say, but to win first-up like that, it’s just phenomenal.
“All night, horses on the fence have been winning, but he defied the pattern and came on the outside to win.
“He’s got bigger fish to fry for sure now. Hopefully, he pulls up well from tonight’s run and it’s onwards and upwards with him.”
Rodd was alluding to the ambitious Dubai campaign that had been mapped out by Brown and his connections, the Victorian-based Barree Stable headed by Mr Glenn Whittenbury, namely the US$5 million Group 1 Dubai Turf (1800m) at Meydan on March 25.
Brown has always made it clear Debt Collector would only book his ticket if he runs well at his two prep runs at Kranji first. Half the battle is now won.
“Dubai is still a long way to go. He will now run in a mile race in three weeks’ time,” said the Australian handler, referring to an Open Stakes race over 1600m on March 3.
“He’s a lovely horse and it’s great to see him win first-up. It’s a big team effort from all the boys at the stable, including the syce who really takes good care of him.”
With that eighth win to his tally, Debt Collector has now taken his stakes money past the $1.45 million mark for the Barree Stable.