With the countdown to the Singapore Airlines International Cup and KrisFlyer International Sprint entering its last week, the Kranji tracks were certainly looking a lot brighter under the floodlights in the early hours of Monday morning, but not necessarily all that busy as yet. It will be South African challenger Jay Peg's final outing before he return home for stud duties and all eyes will be on the defending champion.
Sunday afternoon arrival, JAY PEG, came out for a couple of laps of walk and trot each before heading back for a well-deserved hose-down.
Assistant trainer Nicolas Iguacel had planned just a walk for the Singapore Airlines International Cup title holder to stretch out a little after arriving only the day before, but changed his mind when he saw how "fresh" Jay Peg was.
"That wasn't planned. But he was ripping my arm off when I walked him and I thought a bit of trotting would settle him better," said Iguacel.
Track rider Chris Taylor, who was also his work partner last year, gave a positive report on the Herman Brown-trained Camden Park five-year-old entire, who is heading off to stud duties after the SIA Cup.
"He took his last run in the Dubai Duty Free pretty hard. It was a hard race, he felt flat and fought for his position for most of the trip.
"He has not had the same preparation as last year, especially with Dubai changing all their tracks, but physically and mentally, he felt as good as ever," said Taylor.
Brown jets in on Monday and is expected to be at the Kranji track on Tuesday morning to supervise his precious charge's work.
Granted 12 of the 15 international horses have already arrived, but considering 10 of them only landed over the past weekend, their preparation towards the two big races on Sunday May 17 was kept at a light and easy pace.
Early birds BANKABLE and MYTHICAL FLIGHT, who were the first to check in among the overseas runners on May 1, have already clocked in some mileage in their legs in the last week, but were not hard-pushed either on Monday.
Busiest of the lot was probably Bankable, who with race-rider Kevin Shea astride started off with pacework on the Polytrack before working home the last 400m in 16.5secs. Fellow South African Mythical Flight, with track rider Trevor Brown up went slower with just a leisurely canter around the Polytrack.
"We couldn't stay in Dubai as they were starting to move to the new Meydan track. That has given them more time to settle in here, anyway," said Shea, who arrived in Singapore the next day (May 2) to get down to business right away.
"They had their first grass work on Thursday, and we were very happy with both horses. Condition-wise and look-wise, they're feeling and looking a lot better than at their last run."
Shea, who regularly rides for Mike de Kock around the world, will be aboard both Bankable, who is prepared by de Kock, and Mythical Flight, handled by fellow South African trainer Sean Tarry. Shea rode Mythical Flight to a creditable two-length seventh in the Hong Kong Sprint last December but has never ridden Bankable, an Irish-bred formerly trained by Luca Cumani.
"Johnny Murtagh rode him (Bankable) to fifth in the Dubai Duty Free. It was a very good run," said Shea.
"He's a versatile kind of horse who can adapt to any kind of pace. Mythical Flight on the other hand is a pure speedy 1000m sprinter."
GLORIA DE CAMPEAO, who arrived on Saturday night, was the only European galloper who ventured out on the main tracks, and elected for a lap of walk and trot on the Polytrack.
Ridden by track rider Christophe Bretez, the French-based Brazilian-bred looked a picture of health as he took in the Kranji lights in his stride like a seasoned "local".
"He's raced in Dubai under the lights. This is not new to him," said Bretez.
"I just walked and trotted him on the Polytrack and he was just having a look around. He was as usual full of beans even while walking.
"We'll probably give him a faster work on the same track tomorrow."
His groom Josephine Soudan added that Gloria De Campeao had settled into his new surroundings without a hitch as he comes from hot climates himself.
"He is from Brazil and has been based in Dubai for three months. This (Singapore weather) suits him very well," said Soudan.
"Besides, he is a good traveller, and he has settled in very well here." Recent Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner PRESVIS also left his barn but contented himself with three laps of trot on Track 5 (trotting ring). With track rider Nirina Rakotoarisoa on his back, the Cumani-trained galloper just enjoyed an easy time around the ring.
"Everything's good with him. He travelled very well, and anyway, he's been to Dubai and Hong Kong. So, he's used to it by now," said head travelling lad Charles Henson.
"He's already had his final piece of work at Sha Tin before he flew in here. We'll see how he goes and then I'll speak to the boss to decide what he'll do next."
Back at the quarantine centre, the rest of the European residents made up of the British pair of KrisFlyer International Sprint hopefuls PRIME DEFENDER and MADAME TROP VITE were put through their first paces at the sand ring - just a spot of walk and trot to stretch out those limbs.
"It's his first time with a saddle on here. He's been only hand-walked since he arrived on Friday (May 8) and I'm very pleased with him," said Prime Defender's trainer Barry Hills head travelling lad Ian Willder, who also doubles up as track rider.
"He's travelled very well considering it was his first time going this far away from home. His head was a little low when he just arrived but that was because he was tired.
"He weighed 545kg when we left and lost a bit of weight on arrival, but he has put some back on now. He's a big sort of horse anyway and is also very laid-back.
"He's the sort who looks better out there on the track. I can't have asked him to do no more than what he's done so far."
Willder is in constant contact with Hills, who is still at his Lambourne stables, for daily updates on his charge's progress, and is awaiting further instructions as to the next workload lined up.
"I'll have to speak to the 'Gov'nor' as to any decision to pick up on his work or not," said Willder.
Madame Trop Vite has thus far followed a carbon copy training programme with that of her fellow Great Britain raider, but unlike Prime Defender, her next moves will be left to her track rider's better judgement.
"My boss Kevin Ryan is a very flexible person and leaves it to me to make decisions," said track rider James Maher of the Irish horseman who is based in Yorkshire.
"She's only a three-year-old filly, and it's her first time travelling that far, but she's been pretty good up to now.
"Considering she was bought as a 'breezer', she is a very laid-back kind of filly. She has given absolutely no problems at all during the flight and since she's been here."
KrisFlyer Sprint hero, star sprinter TAKEOVER TARGET, was the last of the three Australian gallopers to appear on the track this morning but looked bright within himself as he trotted a lap of the Polytrack before cantering.
Trainer Joe Janiak had been concerned about the rising 10-year-old after he left some of his feed on Sunday morning following his arrival on Saturday.
But Takeover Target was back on his feed on Sunday and Janiak was a happy man when he saw his charge first thing this morning.
"He ate up last night which was pleasing," said Janiak. "I just think he may have fretted when he first got here and left some of his feed.
"He usually has a companion when he's been away before and this is something new for him.
"But he's back on track this morning. He's back eating and drinking and I'm happy with his condition."
SIA Cup contestants SARRERA and POMPEII RULER have become travelling buddies after sharing a stable block during their Sydney campaigns in Australia and then again here in Singapore.
Clare Rayner, assistant trainer to Mike Moroney, conditioner of Sarrera, and Pat Payet, travelling foreman for Pompeii Ruler's trainer Mick Price, have reported no problems with their gallopers since arriving in Singapore on Saturday.
Both were out this morning for light exercise, trotting and cantering a lap of the Polytrack.
"Looking at him he's taken it all within his stride," Rayner said of Sarrera. "He's adapted well so far to his new conditions and seems to be handling the humidity quite well.
"He's a lovely horse to handle. He's eaten up, drank plenty and has settled in beautifully."
Payet has been Pompeii Ruler's constant companion for almost five years now and knows the horse backwards.
"I've travelled with this horse to Dubai and the more he travels the better he gets," said Payet who has been with Price for 14 years.
"He's adapted pretty well to his new conditions and is coping pretty well with the humidity."
Payet said Pompeii Ruler had arrived in Singapore a fit and healthy galloper and would only need one serious gallop before the race.
"The boss (Price) is due to come up on Wednesday and I would say that we'll probably give him a gallop on the turf on Thursday," said Payet.
"But saying that if the boss rings up tonight to say gallop him tomorrow, then that's what I'll do."
Hong Kong sprinter SACRED KINGDOM has settled in well to the Singapore Turf Club's quarantine stables on his first trip outside of Hong Kong.
Edwin Yong, assistant trainer to Ricky Yiu, said the dual world champion sprinter went out to just stretch his legs following his arrival on Sunday morning.
"He's been eating and drinking and I couldn't be happier with him," said Yong. "It's his first trip overseas and some of these Hong Kong horses can be very nervous on their first trips away.
"So far he's coping with it very well."
Jockey Brett Prebble is due to arrive from Hong Kong in time to give Sacred Kingdom his one serious hitout before Sunday's race on Friday morning.
John Moore is happy enough with how INSPIRATION has settled although he said the gelding had been off his feed a little so far.
"He's down a bit in body weight but we'll change things up a bit and hopefully he'll get the weight back on," said Moore.
"Horses are creatures of habit and this is the first time this horse has been taken out of his comfort zone.
"He's in strange surroundings and can be a bit of a sook sometimes, but overall he's a nice quiet horse and very easy to deal with."
Moore said he was in Singapore to oversee the early stages of Inspiration's first foray overseas.
"It's something I do all the time with my horses when they travel overseas, especially for the first time," said Moore.
"I just like to be on hand to see how they settle in and how they are doing.
"I'll leave this horse in the care of my son George. He travels with my horses and knows what is required."
Moore said he wasn't concerned that Inspiration will be racing left-handed for the first time when he runs in the KrisFlyer Sprint.
"In Hong Kong we get to work the reverse way every Monday and I make sure he works that way to change up his routine," said Moore.
"He seems to enjoy it and I don't think racing this way will be a problem."
The local gallopers were out for an easy morning as well.
Star three-year-old ROCKET MAN was out having a trot and canter over two laps of the Polytrack.
Trainer Patrick Shaw said it was just a matter of keeping the gelding ticking over in the lead-up to Sunday's race.
"I'm the one doing all the stressing," said Shaw. "Rocket Man is nice and relaxed and just going about his business in the lead-up to the race.
"I couldn't be happier with him. He's done all his work for the race. He had a trial last week and I'll just change up which track I work him on to give him a change."
Shaw's SIA Cup hopeful RICOCO was given light exercise this morning and will gallop on Tuesday morning.
"He's an old soldier who is ticking over nicely," said Shaw. "We're just hoping he'll run a good race."
KrisFlyer Sprint contender CAPABLANCA will do his final piece of serious work on Tuesday morning after just having a trot and canter this morning.
"He'll have a gallop on the Polytrack tomorrow morning," said trainer Don Baertschiger.
"I don't want to go changing his routine too much. It's worked for him in the past and he's happy and fit."
SIA Cup contenders THE HORNET and EL DORADO were both given an easy time this morning but the pair will team for a gallop on the turf track on Wednesday morning.
The Hornet's trainer Douglas Dragon said his galloper, who will be ridden by Brazilian jockey Joao Moreira, had had a solid hit-out on Saturday morning and was coming to hand nicely.
"The jockey is happy with him and said he's improved since his last start," said Dragon. "We're taking on the big boys now but we are hoping he runs well."
El Dorado's trainer Hideyuki Takaoka will fit the gelding with winkers in Wednesday's hitout in an effort to get the Singapore Gold Cup winner to spark his form.
Ronnie Stewart, who won the Singapore Gold Cup on the gelding, will be aboard the stayer in Wednesday's hit-out and Sunday's SIA Cup.
"I'm happy with his condition but I've been disappointed with his runs since the Gold Cup," said Takaoka.
"I'll gallop him in winkers on Wednesday morning. I'll see what the jockey says and then decide whether to race him in winkers on Sunday."
After a slow start to the proceedings, Tuesday trackwork is expected to step up a notch, with many of the runners, both local and overseas, slated to work faster.