SINGAPORE - It was only a six-horse affair but Sunday's $200,000 Three Rings Trophy certainly didn't lack the horsepower to provide an exciting finish.
The six contenders had either won or finish second in their last starts and racegoers got the thriller they expected to see.
Race presenter and commentator Matthew Jones said it would just take two good horses to make a great race, and it turned out the two horses on top of their game - $9 favourite Zac Spirit and Holy Empire - provided that stirring finish.
The duo were engaged in a dogfight in the final 300m, which kept their supporters on the edge of their seats.
Finally, Zac Spirit, probably with the 2.5kg weight pull (55kg to Holy Empire's 57.5kg), got the verdict by a mere neck.
Hat-trick winner Goodman finished third, one and a half lengths behind in the Group 3 feature over 1,400m (long course).
The race started with last-start winners Goliath and Empress Wu being slow into stride.
Holy Empire, winner of the Group 3 Saas Fees Stakes three starts back, zoomed to the lead under leading jockey Manoel Munes.
Goodman was slightly over a length behind, with Zac Spirit a similar gap away and racing a bit keenly.
The back trio, namely Bale Star, Empress Wu and Goliath, raced in a pack, also slightly over a length away.
Goodman and then Zac Spirit attacked the leader at the top of the long straight.
While jockey Corey Brown found little from Goodman, jockey Alan Munro, who had won four races on Holy Empire but was riding Zac Spirit, got his mount to breathe down the leader's neck at the 300m mark.
From there, the battle began in earnest and the rest was history.
Munro had thought that he would win easily when Zac Spirit gave him a kick when asked at the top of the spirit, but found the Michael Freedman-trained Holy Empire very stubborn indeed.
Said the Englishman: "Yeah, it was great because Holy Empire had the advantage. He kicked first and, you know, it was a race from the 500m.
"I went to him easily, very comfortably, like I was going to beat him by three lengths but, you know, that horse was hard to beat. "He's a very good horse, Holy Empire...probably off today, at his level, he would have won, won't he?
Munro said Zac Spirit was very manageable although the speed was not on.
"Today, I mean, there was no speed," said the Longines Singapore Gold Cup-winning rider.
"He wanted to come back and it was a canter really, so for a big strong horse like that, he was very manageable and, you know, he was very professional.
"When I asked him to go, he really fights. So, as far as trip goes, maybe you could stretch him out a little bit... probably 1,400m not the best for him.
"Well, he's an explosive horse, I think, maybe he needs to go further. Could try him."
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