Now Inferno Eyes Guineas

Covered and switched off, he wins going away

Rising star Inferno gave another glimpse of his bombproof qualities after he scored a thumping win in the SG$250,000 Gr2 Singapore Classic at Kranji on Sunday, probably one of his most impressive to-date.

From the way the even-money favourite effortlessly strolled to the line while giving some very smart just-turned four-year-olds a real hiding, the Gr1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) on September 26 looks his for the taking.

Inferno (Vlad Duric) runs his rivals off their feet in the Gr2 Singapore Classic

The Classic and Guineas are the slightly altered versions of the remaining (the first Leg, the Sprint was annulled) second and third Leg of a special Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge this year due to COVID-19. Though the vast majority of contenders have turned four, they are exceptionally made eligible for the series this year.

With all of Inferno’s previous six starts (for five wins) restricted to 1200m, some queried whether last year’s undisputed juvenile champion would be as lethal beyond that sprinting trip.

But from the way he came jogging around the field to present fresh like a daisy while his 11 rivals were all under the pump, these doubts quickly proved unfounded.

Inferno never spent a penny throughout the race, with champion jockey Vlad Duric smartly leaving him out of the early speed battle upfront, just smoking his pipe, smothered away in midfield.

And that was the key to the son of Holy Roman Emperor eventually toying with the opposition with such consummate ease inside the last 400m. While he was coasting in neutral gear, many of his opponents were either flat out or just couldn’t match that big engine of his.

Running a sizzling 22.68secs split inside the last 400m, Inferno went on to score easing down by 1 ¾ lengths from Strong N Powerful with Mr Malek bravely hanging on for third place another three-quarter length away. The winning time was 1min 21.77secs for the 1400m on the Short Course.

Trainer Cliff Brown, who was among those who raised some concerns over Inferno’s stamina, was certainly more confident heading towards the Singapore Guineas now.

“That was such an exciting win. He travelled beautifully throughout and that was a 10-out-of-10 ride from Vlad,” said the Australian handler.

“I just told him not to move before the bend, and things worked out perfectly.

“The Guineas is the plan for him next. I won’t change a thing in his training, this horse is getting better and better.

“That was probably his best win so far, and it’s all thanks to Chris Bock (racing manager) who bought him. You know, a lot goes into it, and Chris is such a great judge of young horses.

“He can spend $20,000 on a horse who will become very good, just like he can do it for an $150,000 horse. It’s remarkable.

“I can’t do that. My attention span is too low!”

Duric for one was super focused on only one mantra when he was given the leg-up on a horse he rode only for the first time at his last start when he returned a commanding winner first-up in a Class 3 race over 1200m on August 8.

“I just wanted him to get cover and switch off,” said Duric.

“I wasn’t really worried by the 1400m. He was fresh first-up and I was more worried he would overrace again today.

“I just wanted him to settle as it was his first time over 1400m, and he did, he was relaxed the whole way through. He was dominant and he’s going towards the mile now.

“Credit to Cliff, Chris and Tony (Lane). They’ve done a wonderful job with this horse.

“And how not to mention Michael Rodd (Inferno’s previous partner). He texted me straight after the win, this is a special horse to him.”

Duric was incidentally giving himself a nice breather after Brazilian jockey Ruan Maia ate into his massive 19-win lead thanks to a nine-win haul in the last two meetings, including a seven-timer last weekend.

The three-time Singapore champion jockey replied in the best possible way with a four-timer on Sunday, having earlier saluted aboard two other Brown horses, Miraaj and Solar Eclipse, and Hwasong for Stephen Gray.

With Maia returning home empty-handed, Duric has put some space back – 14 winners – on 43 winners.

Brown equalled Duric’s prolific day with his own quartet of winners when Gold Star (A’Isisuhairi, $34) came from last to score a thriller in the next race after the Classic, the $70,000 Big Maverick 2008 Stakes Class 3 race over 1400m.

“Gold Star thoroughly deserved that win. He tries his heart out all the time,” said Brown.

“It’s been a great day for us.”

Inferno’s stellar record now reads as follows: Six wins, one second from seven starts for stakes earnings around the $480,000 mark for the Barree Stable.

Four years ago, Glenn Whittenbury and his Victorian associates won the same race with the great Debt Collector on his way to winning the last two Legs of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge.

From his first couple of runs, Inferno was already touted by some fans as the heir apparent to Debt Collector. The more impartial parties took it with a pinch of salt then, especially the always cautious Brown, but after that latest galloping lesson, the passing of the baton should not be far off.

He was sold as a weanling by Newhaven Park at the Magic Millions sale for $10,000 to Paul Willetts Bloodstock, then on-sold as a yearling by Westbury Stud at the New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sale for $140,000 to Cliff Brown Racing.

His earnings to date are S$478,173.

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