The Gr1 Monkey’s Off Happy Trainer’s Back

Thrilling icebreaker at Kranji

The planning had been meticulous and the execution did not disappoint after Golden Monkey gave trainer Tim Fitzsimmons his first Group 1 win in the SG$400 000 Singapore Derby on Sunday.

Golden Monkey was sent out the raging favourite on the back of a convincing win when being ridden cold in the Gr2 Stewards’ Cup on 2 July, a tactic that showed the distance in the third Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge would not be a problem.

Hugh Bowman and Golden Monkey take the Gr1 honours on Sunday at Kranji (Pic – STC)

Prior to being beaten by Golden Monkey in the Stewards’ Cup, Super Salute was at his seventh win in a row, so the now Richard Lim-trained gelding had strong support to be on the second line of betting, while last-start winner Cavalry was the only other horse with stronger support in the market.

On jumping, it was no surprise that visiting jockey Hugh Bowman dropped Golden Monkey to last, while Elite Legend (Mo Hin Tun) took up the role of the pacesetter with Sousui (Krisna Thangamani) on his outside for company.

City Gold Wonder (Bernardo Pinheiro) and Saint Tropez (Wong Chin Chuen) were also handy in the running, while jockey Manoel Nunes elected to settle Super Salute midfield with cover with Cavalry (Vlad Duric) on his flank.

At the 600m, Duric – who won the Singapore Derby atop Top Knight three years ago – was the first to make a move by sending Cavalry forward to challenge Saint Tropez for the lead on turning for home. With Super Salute in traffic behind him and Golden Monkey still three lengths back at the 400m, it was game on for all the fancies.

Yet with Bowman still smoking his pipe at the 375m, backers would have been confident that Golden Monkey still had plenty left in his tank. When the 2017 Longines World’s Best Jockey got to work at the 350m, the race looked theirs for the taking – and it was.

Golden Monkey responded liked he did in the Stewards’ Cup by levelling up at the 150m before careering away to a resounding three-parts-of-a-length win over the brave Cavalry.

A length further back, it was a blanket go for the minors with Super Salute edging out Invincible Tycoon (Marc Lerner) by a nose for third and a gamed Saint Tropez running another head away in fifth.

The winning time was 1 min 47.92secs for the 1800m on the Long Course and Golden Monkey’s sixth win in 13 starts – and fourth at Group level – took his earnings in Singapore to over $600,000.

Fitzsimmons put the historic win down to hard work and good planning by all involved.

“It’s been twelve months in the making for this race,” said a visibly emotional Fitzsimmons to racing presenter Scott Bailey after the race.

“Nothing is by chance. Everything is planned and plotted, as well as the amazing ride. Everything came off.

“I want to thank all my staff. These horses are not easy. (Track rider) Kali (Kalimutha Ganesen) who rides him (Golden Monkey) every day, (assistant-trainer) JN (Jayabalan Naidu) and Chris (Bock), who came back to help me over the last twelve months. It’s a massive team effort.

“We had a rough start but this is an amazing feeling. I love this place (Singapore racecourse) but it’s a real shame (to) what’s happening here. Look at the crowd here today.

“Thanks to (bloodstock agent) Josh McLoughlan who found the horse. He’s brought so many new owners to my stable.

“This was the last thing left. We won the premiership (2022 Singapore champion trainer), the Group 3s and Group 2s, and now to top it off with my first Group 1 in the Derby, it’s amazing.

“I want to thank my mum and dad who are at home (in Australia). I wouldn’t be here without them.”

The Singapore Derby winning team: (from left) jockey Hugh Bowman, owner Vic Elvin and trainer Tim Fitzsimmons (Pic – STC)

Bowman – who earlier rode City Gold Star to victory in the Sun Marshal 2019 Stakes, a Class 4 Division 1 race over 1200m (see earlier report) – was full of praise for both Golden Monkey and the connections after weighing in.

“A lovely turn of foot,” said Bowman of the Jig Racing/Elvin Stable-owned four-year-old by Star Turn.

“And that was the confidence the team instilled into me prior to riding him. (Jockey) Chad (Schofield) did a wonderful job last start (Stewards’ Cup) when I couldn’t get here in between Sha Tin meetings.

“Full credit to the process because I don’t think this horse is at his best over this distance (1800m). I thought he simply had the class edge over this field and he’s been taught to settle and relax.

“He got a bit of fright before the start and that concerned me because I thought he wouldn’t settle before he went into the gates – but he did.

“When we jumped, I just settled him at the back and after 50m, I was confident. He was in a lovely rhythm and it was just a case of not popping my cork until I needed too.

“I had a lot of confidence in the horse and he provided me with the turn of foot that I expected.”

When asked by Bailey if he was wary of not being able to make up the ground on the leaders in the straight, Bowman knew he had those that mattered where he wanted them.

“I could see the main rivals, one or two pairs in front,” explained the Australian-born hoop of Winx fame.

“If they were up in the leading pack, that might have been a different story, but I was confident that the ones to beat were right in front of me.

“I even sort of just came back when the brakes went on at the top of the lane to let the speed go before I got involved.

“I think that certainly helped at the end of the race because he sprinted and put them away quickly, but he had enough at the line.”

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