South African Katak just short of Singapore Group 1

Stephen Gray and New Zealand’s Copperbelt Racing won Group acclaim across two continents on Saturday with Hard Too Think winning the $300,000 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m) at Kranji and Oxley Road taking out the A$300,000 Group 2 McCafe Caulfield Sprint (1000m) at Caulfield in Melbourne, Australia.

Just under two hours after Oxley Road, a promising Exceed And Excel four-year-old entire Gray races in partnership with both Singaporeans and Australians, gave the Kiwi trainer a big thrill by landing the last race on the undercard of the Caulfield Cup day 6,000km away, the red-letter day got even more surreal when his Singapore Derby winner Hard Too Think upstaged some of the best stayers in Singapore in the feature race formerly slated as the second Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series.

Coming off a ground-saving third place on the rails, despite breaking from the widest alley (10), Hard Too Think (Marc Lerner) had only Katak (Matthew Kellady) in his crosshairs inside the concluding stages after race-leader Minister (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) faded out of the race.

For a few fleeting seconds, the prospect of witnessing Katak, the previously unbeaten five-from-five South African rising star, coming good at his new Singapore venture in a feature race was looking on the cards, but Lerner – who partnered Katak at his first two unplaced runs at Kranji – had other ideas.

The French jockey, who was certainly enjoying the rub of the green after winning three races earlier (Miracle, Hyde Park and Siam Warrior), must have got a whiff of a fantastic four-timer coming in a Group 1 race when he peeled Hard Too Think across the weakening Minister to collar Katak.

If some still doubted a winner at level weights against his own age group could get on terms with a Cape Winter Series Triple Crown winner in open company, the resounding reply came soon enough.

Hard Too Think ($26) ineluctably came Katak’s upsides at the 200m before forging clear towards a most impressive half-length win with Lerner easing down late. Interestingly, it was one of the lesser fancied member of Michael Clements’ awesome five, So Hi Class (Hakim Kamaruddin) who crept up along the rails to claim third place another 1 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 48.32secs for the 1800m on the Long Course.


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