South Africa's main hope and the defending Singapore Airlines Cup Champion, Jay Peg, landed the Plum Draw of 5 for his date with destiny at his final lifetime start on Sunday.
Drawn by co-owner Marsh Shirtliff, who is in town to bid his charge a fond farewell no matter the outcome, picked the prefect slot for the Herman Brown trained galloper.
While the allocation of barrier gates does not matter all that much for a 2000m race, more so when the Singapore Airlines International Cup field is only 12-horse strong this year, connections of the 12 runners all converged to the Tropics Atrium at Suntec City on Thursday with the hope of drawing well.
By the time the last gate number was drawn, it was certainly a “G’Day” for the Australians when their two contenders Sarrera and Pompeii Ruler came away with the two plum draws, one and two respectively.
“For this horse it was essential for him to draw an inside barrier,” said Sarrera’s trainer Michael Moroney. “He has the gate speed to take a forward position and from watching replays of this race you need to be handy.
“The only reason he has come from back in the field in the past two Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney is because he has drawn an outside barrier and there is not a long run to the first turn, and when he won the Doomben Cup he drew in and wasn’t far away in the run.”
Pompeii Ruler’s conditioner Mick Price was quickly studying the form of other runners after the bold chestnut came up with gate two and believes his horse will be in the firing line for a long way.
“It looks a pretty good gate,” said Price. “The speed looks to have drawn well outside of us which is a plus.
“We may just have to push forward a little to the first turn but then we should be able to steady up and get the box seat.
“I just hope they go at a nice steady tempo all the way and that we’ll be able to get off the fence at the right time.
“It would be horrible to come all this way and not to get a clear run,” he said.
Another happy face was that of assistant-trainer Trevor Brown after he pulled stall No 3 for the Mike de Kock-trained Bankable, who finished fifth in the Dubai Duty Free last March.
“I’m very chuffed with that draw,” said Brown right after he made a quick phone call to de Kock to deliver the good news.
“He’s a versatile horse with a good turn of foot and from that gate, he’ll be able to take a good position if he’s quicker than the others.
“Otherwise, if they go quicker he can still drop back and we’ll then just ride him for luck from where he is.
“He’s come on since Dubai and I expect a big run from him.”
Among the local runners, veteran conditioner Douglas Dragon and his daughter, assistant-trainer Leticia were wearing the broadest grin after The Hornet was handed alley No 4.
“Beautiful! He gets back anyway, but at least he won’t be caught wide early,” said Dragon who is saddling his first SIA Cup runner since its inception in 2000.
“The horse is fit, he’s drawn well, and he has a good jockey (Joao Moreira). It’s all up to him now.”
Trainer Herman Brown was extremely delighted with defending champion Jay Peg’s barrier No 5, though he was not getting too carried away.
“It’s a good draw and gives us plenty of options to ride close to the pace, as he normally does,” said Brown.
“A lot will also depend on how quick the horses on the inside go.”
Last year, Jay Peg sat quietly in second spot as Chevron bolted to a tearaway lead before sweeping past for a dominant victory in the 2000m showcase.
There were no wild celebrations in the Gloria De Campeao camp but the two staff on hand looked pleased enough with barrier No 6.
“He drew six in the Dubai World Cup as well,” said his track rider Christophe Bretez after groom Josephine Soudan went up to take the “lucky dip”.
“He goes forward and this will suit him very well.”
In a premonition, Masa Otani, owner of Singapore Gold Cup winner El Dorado, predicted he would draw barrier No 7 when called upon.
“It was what the owner was hoping for and he predicted that is what it would be,” said El Dorado’s jockey Ronnie Stewart.
“I was hoping for us to draw somewhere in the middle. I don’t want to have to go to the fence on him as he’s a horse that needs plenty of galloping room.”
The Godolphin Team seemed happy with Balius’ post No 8, with head lass Claire Sparkes commenting it was a “fine” draw, though come raceday it will be left to trainer Saeed bin Suroor and jockey Frankie Dettori to come up with a strategy with last year’s third placegetter.
Trainer Patrick Shaw continued his wretched history with feature race barrier draws – most classic example being Mr Line who drew 16 from 16 twice (SIA Cup and Gold Cup) – though a No 9 alley is not quite as bad, but certainly not ideal for on-pace runner Ricoco.
“What can I say? Anyway I had wished the race was run on the Polytrack to start with,” said the South African mentor.
“From that alley he may have to work hard to get to the lead. Hopefully we can still run in the money.”
Tascata Sorte was the last horse drawn in the SIA Cup field.
His Japanese trainer Hideaki Fujiwara was disappointed with the draw, but had “no choice in the matter”.
“We would have preferred to have drawn inside but we didn’t have any choice,” said Fujiwara.
“We will have to sit down and try and work out a plan. It makes the job tough but the horse is fit and well.”
Two men cutting forlorn figures were five-time champion trainer Laurie Laxon and Luca Cumani’s assistant-trainer Charlie Henson.
Horse of the Year 2008 Top Spin has pulled No 11 for Laxon while the one that has been tagged as the one to beat in pre-race talks, Presvis saw his prospect take a dip after drawing a horror gate in 12.
“I’ve drawn one from the widest again (Waikato drew 13 from 14 in the KrisFlyer Sprint),” sighed Laxon.
“It’s not good as he races handy. It will now depend how the field breaks up.”
The confidence in the Presvis team also looked sapped when the outermost alley came up, though the Sakhee five-year-old won the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup coming from last.
“I’ll leave it to the boss to decide,” said Henson.