France and a part of Spain scored an emotional win in Sunday's $3 million Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup (2000m) when Chinchon emerged victorious to bag the coveted event for trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias whose father passed away last Friday. (Image: SAHorseracing.COM)
The Spanish-born French trainer had arrived in Singapore on Thursday to apply the finishing touches to Chinchon at Kranji, but had to urgently fly back to Seville on Friday night after news of his father’s passing came through.
Despite the harrowing time the Laffon-Parias camp was going through, there was still a job to be done on Sunday. Laffon-Parias’ wife Patricia stayed in Singapore to take over the helm and ensure that the preparation which had already been well-executed by the ground crew headed by track rider Jean-Luc Hanot, went without a hitch until D-day.
Chinchon, whose last run was an eighth to Rulership in the Group 1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) was at his second attempt in the SIA Cup after he ran fifth to Gitano Hernando in last year’s edition. All week, the mood build-up in the French camp had been bullish given he had been working a lot better than in 2011, especially after his turf gallop on Wednesday.
He may not have been around, but Laffon-Parias’ foundation work certainly paid off on Sunday through the way Chinchon, a seven-year-old entire by Marju, outstayed his rivals in a field whittled down to 11 following the early scratching of Always Certain and the late scratching of City Style
In line with his get-back pattern, Chinchon ($29) was settled by Hong Kong-based French jockey Olivier Doleuze in the rear division on the fence and seemingly relishing the rain-affected track which had been downgraded to soft, while local hopes Flax (Jose Verenzuela) and Waikato (Opie Bosson) set the pace at the head of affairs.
Among the internationals, favourite Zazou (Andreas Suborics) looked the most likely, enjoying the run of the race in third place on the rails, while the other French raider Dream Peace (Gerald Mosse) was the worse off, trapped four deep for most of the way.
Hong Kong’s trio of Zaidan (James McDonald), California Memory (Felix Coetzee) and Thumbs Up (Brett Prebble) were strung up in the second and third tier, biding their time before launching their challenge.
But upon straightening, Flax was showing no signs of abdication and at the 400m still looked a strong chance of giving the Newbury Racing Stable a fairytale double on Singapore’s biggest racing night after they took out the sister-race, the KrisFlyer International Sprint with Ato.
The Cup however slipped through their hands as the foreign charge headed by Zazou, Zaidan and Chinchon started to make rapid ground. The Waldemar Hickst-trained Zazou was the first to shorten up while the John Moore-trained Zaidan kept plugging away, but it was Chinchon who reigned supreme in the end as he powered away in the last 100m to draw away for a three-length win over Zaidan.
Flax finished first among the locals as he battled gamely for third another half-a-length away with Zazou fourth another 2 ¾ lengths away. The winning time was 2min 4.43secs.
“This is for Carlos. We are all thinking of him now,” said his wife Patricia. “We are very very happy Chinchon won but it’s also sad he’s not here to celebrate with us.
“I’ve already called him to tell him the good news and he’s absolutely delighted.
“The horse was in a much better condition than last year. He didn’t work well then but he was a lot more relaxed this year.
“We had already worked out a pre-race plan to get back early. During the race, he pulled a little around the first turn, but he then relaxed well. Olivier rode him beautifully.
“I can’t really remember last year’s race but I know he was a bit unlucky and took a few bumps in the running.
“Our team at Kranji has done a fantastic job and I say ‘merci’ (thank you in French) to all of them.”
Patricia Laffon-Parias flew back to France on Sunday night itself and said they would be delighted to come back to defend their crown next year.
“We would love to come back. I’m not sure what his next plans are, though,” she said.
“We’ll celebrate the win for now and go back to France and leave it to Carlos and the owners to decide.”
A previous stakes earner of around S$863,000 for his owners Sarl Darpat France, Chinchon has now boosted his prizemoney to close to S$2.5 million with this seventh success. He was not at his first Group 1 win as he already had the Group 1 United Nation Stakes (2200m) at Monmouth Park, USA in 2009 to his name.
Doleuze, who rode Chinchon only once in his previous 26 starts – fourth in the 2009 APQEII Cup captured by Presvis – said winning the SIA Cup ranked high among his achievements, especially as he was the first jockey to add his name to the KrisFlyer at its inaugural edition in 2001 won by the Criquette Head-trained Iron Mask.
“I am very honoured to be able to ride in this beautiful race and especially for Carlos who lost his dad last Friday, which makes this even more emotional,” said Doleuze.
“This race is very special for me as the Singapore Turf Club is one of the first Clubs to give me the chance to ride in Asia.
“I was also one of the first to win the other race (KrisFlyer) and now I’ve won the big one.
“I still can’t realise what is happening. It will probably sink in on the way to Phuket.”
Doleuze said much of the success probably hinged on the decision of going “one-off” behind California Memory in the early stages of the race or to hug the rails.
“I took my chances. When you get a second chance you have to be confident and that was what I did tonight,” said Doleuze who rode many times at Kranji in the early 2000s.
“I took the risk to be on the inside during the race and Felix (California Memory) improved in front of me and took me into the race and we could finish off well.
“With the cut out of the ground it made a big difference and he was travelling like the winner the whole way.
“In the straight, once I was able to switch him out to the outside, he accelerated very strongly.”