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Shane Baertschiger's third Gr1 success

Former Godolphin galloper Aramaayo claimed his highest prize since racing in Singapore when he landed the SG$1 million Gr1 Kranji Mile on Sunday.

First past the post only once at his previous six starts at Kranji, the Poet’s Voice five-year-old had, however, not been able to fully showcase his true Australian form that includes a Gr3 win (Spring Stakes over the same mile trip in Newcastle in 2018), most notably, his second-last run when beaten in the Gr2 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) back in March.

Aramaayo (Ruan Maia) comes up trumps in the Gr1 Kranji Mile

That day, he blundered at the start, conceding close to six to seven lengths, but still made up stacks of ground to run third, less than two lengths off the winner Siam Blue Vanda.

That ‘nearly horse’ tag stuck on further when a flying third at his first-up run since the COVID-19 break in a Class 2 race over 1100m on July 26.

But that label finally ‘came unstuck’ when it mattered the most on Sunday, earning trainer Shane Baertschiger his third Gr1 success since taking over from his father Don in 2012, and first-time partner Ruan Maia, his first Gr1 hurrah in Singapore.

After being promoted to International Gr3 this year, the Kranji Mile was unfortunately brought back down a peg to domestic Group 1 status as part of the slew of changes brought about by COVID-19.

The owner, the Aramco Stable, is no stranger to Gr1 heights either, having jointly celebrated their first with Baertschiger thanks to Aramco in the Lion City Cup (1200m) last season.

The fanfare and hoopla that usually come with the territory on such big days of racing were sadly missing with the zero-crowd policy still enforced in line with the strict COVID-19 protocols on course.

Baertschiger and assistant-trainer Scott Bailey led Aramaayo in to the sound of maybe a few passing birds (crickets if it had been a night meeting), but the Australian handler was still basking in that new triumph in his own quiet way.

“This is my third Group 1 win, but it definitely feels different from the first two (second one is I’m Incredible in last year’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup). There were no cheers, no photos and no prize presentation, but that’s the way it is now,” said Baertschiger.

“A Group 1 win is still a Group 1 win, and we will celebrate later. I knew this horse had peaked at the right time after he ran super on Polytrack first-up.

“He won with blinkers in Australia and we’ve been saving them for the Kranji Mile. He’s a horse who stops when he hits the front too early.

“He still tried to do it once he passed Countofmontecristo, but when Maia growled at him, that kept his mind on the job.

“He’ll of course wear a set of blinkers in the Derby, which, just nice, is in three weeks’ time. Fingers crossed, he’ll be a big runner again.”

The $500,000 Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) on September 6 had always been the race Aramaayo (known as Aramayo when prepared by top Sydney trainer James Cummings for two wins for the mighty Godolphin) was bought for as a four-year-old, even if the glamour race has undergone many changes this year, both in terms of conditions (now open to five-year-olds) and prizemoney.

It would now take a crowbar to prise Maia off Aramaayo’s back, more so when Baertschiger revealed he had eyed the Brazilian jockey off as his partner quite a while back.

“I actually wanted Maia to ride Aramaayo in the Stewards’ Cup, that race he missed the start badly, but Maia had a booking already (On Line),” said the Australian handler who was incidentally sealing a first win with the Brazilian at their eighth try.

“Aramaayo was not confirmed for the Kranji Mile at first, but when some of the horses dropped out, he got up. When I asked Maia this time, he was okay to ride him.”

The two-time Macau champion jockey (at last two seasons before the current one) responded to the faith in his ability in the best possible way with a 10-out-of-10 ride, even resorting to his vocal cords to put the race to bed.

After Aramaayo’s second win from seven starts, his stakes earnings, which also includes place earnings from two seconds and two thirds, have leapt to around $680,000 for the Aramco Stable.

  • Singapore Turf Club

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