After a battling run in the Gr1 Singapore Gold Cup on 11 November last year, Pacific Emperor will return to what is arguably his best trip and track in the SG$110,000 Gr3 New Year Cup on Saturday.
Though he finished 13th to Lim’s Kosciuszko in the iconic staying feature race, one cannot dismiss Pacific Emperor’s previous run on 28 October when he won the Gr3 Merlion Trophy on the Polytrack, a win that instilled connections with confidence of a repeat performance.
On that occasion, the four-year-old son of Caravaggio beat two of his New Year Cup rivals, Major King and Super Salute, by a nose and a short head respectively.
This time, he also goes into the race nicely with 56kgs on his back.
Furthermore, the David Kok-trained gelding will have the service of in-form jockey Vlad Duric and has drawn a good barrier five, so he looks well placed to add to his impressive race record in Singapore, which currently stands at six wins from nine starts.
Given his only two unplaced runs since arriving at Kranji were over 1600m and 2000m, dropping back to 1200m will be something Kok is happy with.
“No doubt it’s Pacific Emperor’s best distance and best track,” said the Ipoh-born conditioner, who won this feature race with Speedy Dragon in 2018.
“In fact, he won three for ex-Kranji trainer Michael Clements and the Merlion Trophy for me from four starts on the Polytrack over 1200m, so it’s a very good record.
“We have freshened him up after the Gold Cup and I was very happy with his recent trial (finished fourth in trial no 3 to Lucky Jinsha on 28 December). Vlad did fast work on him on Tuesday and was very happy with him.
“I think from our lucky barrier (five) and with the best jockey riding, we will figure in the finish in the New Year Cup.”
Although he has eight other entries on the 12-race meeting on Saturday, Kok thought Pacific Emperor will be the best chance he has to lead in a winner on the first meeting of the season.
“To be honest, none of my other runners look like winning hopes,” said a candid Kok.
“So, although we have to beat some good horses, I will concentrate on the big race and hopefully get the season off to a good start.
“I respect Super Salute, but he has extra weight to carry (58kgs) and no luck at the barriers (11) again.
“I will also be watching trainer Jason’s Ong two horses. We just beat Major King in the Merlion Trophy and he looks well-weighted carrying one-and-a-half kilos less than us. His recent trial was very good too (won trial no 2 on 28 December in the time of 1min 1.09secs).
“And Ong’s other horse, Akhtar looks like an up-and-coming horse. He has drawn well (2) and only has 50kgs to carry, so he is one to watch for sure.”
Of running Pacific Emperor in the Singapore Gold Cup – which surprised some analysts – Kok was philosophical, but not one to look backwards.
“No regrets,” he said.
“Pacific Emperor looked better suited to sprint trips but the owner was keen to have a crack at the Gold Cup while he was in form, so why not?
“The race didn’t knock him bad. He pulled up very well and we are looking forward to the feature races this year.
“He’s the best horse in my stable and we will probably have a go at all the feature races, including the four-year-old races.
“We will let Pacific Emperor tell us how he goes but he should progress through the 1400m (Gr3 Silver Bowl) and 1600m (Gr2 Stewards’ Cup) races.
“That would be a good preparation towards the 1800m of the Gr1 Singapore Derby. As they say, you’re only four once, so we’ll have a go for sure.”
Open to four-year-olds, the Silver Bowl, Stewards’ Cup and the Singapore Derby will be held on 9 June, 30 June and 21 July respectively.
They formed the first, second and third Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge series last year, but the series is no longer held this year, hence the trio will be held as standalone feature races.
- The first race is off at 06h00 on Saturday. The Hollywoodbets Punters’ Challenge closes at 05h55.