SINGAPORE - A big pull in the weights paved the way to victory for MAKKURA in the Group 3 $200,000 Paititi Gold Trophy over 1,200m in Race 8 at Kranji last Sunday.
Ridden by Saifudin Ismail, the Laurie Laxon-trained five-year-old mare scored by 1¾ lengths from Mr Big (Corey Brown), with Speedy Cat (Manoel Nunes) a neck away third.
Handicapped at just 50kg, Makkura was in receipt of 9kg from the gallant runner-up, who tried his heart out after racing on a hot speed.
The 1,200m journey was run in 1min 08.85sec.
The pace was furious from the outset.
Sichuan Ruler (Oscar Chavez) was sent forward to lead from Mr Big, who was hunted on the inside after a slow beginning.
Makkura and Valevole (Barend Vorster) were settled next in line.
Sichuan Ruler still held sway as the field turned from home from Mr Big, with Makkura all ready to issue the big challenge.
When Saifudin asked Makkura for the supreme effort, she sprinted quickly and took the lead from Mr Big, who responded gamely under the big impost but found his initial work too daunting.
The victory was a welcome change of luck for Saifudin, who had been sidelined through the 2013 season with a series of suspensions and injuries.
He said he got a big surprise when he received a phone call from Laurie Laxon's assistant trainer Shane Ellis last Monday afternoon offering him the ride.
"I've only ridden for about four months this year," said Saifudin.
"I've had time out with suspensions and injuries, so this win is a big thrill.
"It was a big surprise to get the call on Monday after the handicaps came out to see if I wanted to take the ride.
"I thought someone like (Barend) Vorster or (Ivaldo) Santana would have been the choice, so it was a bit of a shock when Shane rang me.
"I have to thank Laurie for giving me the opportunity to ride this mare. I rode her on Tuesday morning and she gave me a really good feel and I was confident in the race where we were.
"She was nice and relaxed in the race and I was happy with where we were. I just had to keep waiting for the right time in the straight to go for her."
Laxon said Makkura was a versatile mare that handles both the turf and the Polytrack and is also at home over a mixture of distances.
"She broke very well today and was always travelling, much better than what she was last time," he said.
"She had the lightweight today and Saifudin gave her the perfect ride.
"She's also very versatile, having proven herself on the turf and the Polytrack but she's also very moody.
"She has to go out onto the track first as she plays up in the parade ring and might hurt herself one day but, once she gets to the tunnel, she's OK.
"We'll probably look at running her over 1,400m in a fortnight's time.
"Barend Vorster, who has ridden her of late thinks the 1,400m trip will suit her."
After winning her first start in New Zealand, Makkura, a five-year-old by Falkirk from Electric Dream, has won eight of her 18 starts in Singapore with a further eight minor placings and has accumulated about $500,000 in prizemoney for Toast Trust No 27 and Stephen Crutchley Stable.
Makkura was the middle leg of a treble for Laxon, who also saddled GUIDED LIGHT (James McDonald) in Race 3 and TOM (Corey Brown) in Race 9.
The treble has brought the Kiwi handler to just one shy of training the magical 1,000 winner at Kranji.
Laxon relocated to Singapore in 2000 and has won the champion trainer's title seven times.