Singapore colours flew high at Ellerslie in New Zealand yesterday, when XIONG FENG captured the famous Karaka Million for a group of Singapore owners.
Adding another layer to the patriotic fervour, Xiong Feng was hand-picked and purchased at last year's Karaka Sale by Singaporean trainer Mok Zhan Lun.
After the son of Iffraaj was successfully knocked down for NZ$30,000 ($27,800), Mok convinced one of his owners, Tan Eng Koon, to race the horse in New Zealand.
Leading trainer Stephen McKee was chosen to train the chestnut gelding.
While Xiong Feng's win in New Zealand's richest two-year-old race was a testimony to his judgment at the sale rings, it was an even greater delight for Mok, given that he had decided at the last minute to fly to New Zealand to watch the race, at the insistence of the owners, headed by Tan, to join them.
"It's great to see Xiong Feng win. Yes, I bought him, but I'm even happier for the owners to have won New Zealand's richest two-year-old race," said Mok over the phone from Ellerslie.
"It's only this week I made up my mind to go, and it was definitely worth it. No big party tonight, though, just celebrate quietly." Xiong Feng, which means strong and muscular in Chinese, showed he was indeed all of that when he won his first two races to qualify for the Karaka Million. Though the likes of short-priced favourite Manolo Blahniq, The Soultaker and O'Reilly Cyrus garnered more support in the pre-race market, Xiong Feng (11-1) was the one who came up trumps.
Well-ridden by Danielle Johnson, Xiong Feng held his barrier No. 1 advantage to grab the lead and keep Manolo Blahniq (Matthew Cameron) on his outside before going for broke upon straightening.
Xiong Feng kicked clear with the hotpot unable to muster response, but had to dig deep at the end of the long Ellerslie home straight to ward off a late challenge of outsider Showmeyamoneyhoney (Darryl Bradley) to fall in by 0.3 length.
Kingsman (Mark du Plessis) finished third, 0.2-lengths away.
"The instructions from Stephen to Danielle were to sit second or third, but as it was a leader's track, we took advantage of the good barrier," said Mok.
"He jumped well and was always travelling comfortably in front. They closed in but he held on good - unbelievable!"
Already feeling a million dollars in New Zealand, Mok, who returns to Singapore on Thursday, was in for even better news a few hours later when, back home, his Kranji charge GEARIGURU finally scored a first win at his 19th start in the $35,000 Class 5 Division 2 event over 1,200m in Race 6.
The least-backed horse in the field of nine, Geariguru paid a monstrous $329 for a win and $56 for a place.
Jockey John Sundradas placed his mount midfield before making his move in the straight.
The grey Tropical Forest led but was pounced upon by So Perfect shortly after entering the straight. Golden Rosewood then became the new leader 300m out, where John brought Geariguru up with a nice run to win by one-and-a-quarter lengths in 1min 10.92sec.
John was back at the winner's circle in the penultimate event aboard the Steven Burridge-trained ANONYMOUS, who made it back-to-back wins. It was a lucky victory, as in the mid-straight of the Class 4 Div 2 event over the Polytrack 1,100m, Anonymous ran into the rump of another runner and had to peel outwards to obtain clear running.
Luckily, his mount gave plenty when he saw daylight and won by three-quarter lengths to pay $22.
This article was first published on Jan 25, 2016.
Get The New Paper for more stories.