Asif pegged back equal favourite Akhtar with relative ease to claim the SG$70,000 Better Than Ever 2012 Stakes, a Class 3 race on Saturday at Kranji.
It probably did not look like the case when the Steven Burridge-trained gelding was given the whip over the final furlong by jockey Manoel Nunes at his last-ditch attempt to run down Akhtar (Bruno Queiroz), who was backing up after an easy win in a Class 4 sprint race last Saturday.
Akhtar, who led all the way, hung on for dear life on the rails as Asif gained momentum steadily, but he only managed to stick his neck out in the last 50m before eventually prevailing by half-a-length on the line.
Akhtar lost no marks in second while Energy Baby (Akmazani Mazuki) sprinted home late to finish another three parts of a length away in third.
The winning time was 1 min 12.34secs for the 1200m on the Polytrack.
Nunes, who rode Asif to his first win in a Class 4 Division 2 race on the turf at his second start in Singapore, was confident of a second win from the Per Incanto five-year-old despite having to play catch-up in the straight.
“He’s a very straightforward horse. I can ride him wherever he’s happy,” said the four-time Singapore champion jockey, who is well on his way to a fifth title on 83 wins after he also pulled off a double with Written Towin saluting in the SG$75,000 Celavi 2021 Stakes, a Restricted Maiden race eight races earlier.
“From that barrier (four), he jumped out of the gate very quickly, put himself there and travelled beautifully.
“I just tracked behind Akhtar and I was sure Asif would get it in the end. He trialled really well last week and won on 17 October.
“He can go over longer to 1400m. He’s a very smart horse and he can settle well in races.”
Burridge, who took out the SG$30,000 Lim’s Kosciuszko 2023 Stakes, a Class 5 race over 1400m on Galaxy Bar in the opening race, was glad to get another win for owner, Mansoor Gandhi from the Al-Arabiya Stable.
Makin was the first winner that celebrated the new partnership between Burridge and the Al-Arabiya Stable last Saturday.
They transferred seven horses, including Asif and Makin, from trainer Michael Clements to Burridge about three weeks ago.
“Since he came over, he’s done well and eaten well. He’s also put on a bit of weight. 498kgs, 20kgs up from previous race weight, but I thought he needed it,” said the veteran Australian conditioner of Asif, whose name meant “forgiveness” in Arabic.
“I was happy with the way he trialled. He’s done everything right and hopefully, he trains on.
“Maybe he can get a bit more distance, probably over the 1400m next. It can be either the Polytrack or the turf now that he’s won on both.
“Thanks to the owner for giving me this opportunity to train him.”
Gandhi, who welcomed Asif at the winner’s circle with Burridge, praised Burridge and his staff too.
“Steven and his team have done a good job. They’re committed. Good job from the horse and the rider too,” he said.
Known as Sacrimony when prepared by premier Sydney trainer Chris Waller, Asif boasted two wins on heavy going at Canterbury and Hawkesbury.
With two wins and two placings from four starts at Kranji thus far, he has collected over SG$80,000 in prizemoney for his Al-Arabiya Stable.