Athletica franked the improved form and mannerisms displayed over a trip at his last start to come away with a rousing win in the S$50,000 Class 4 race over 1600m in Singapore on Friday night.
After the Tavistock four-year-old’s flying second to Centenary Diamond at his last start when risen to the mile in similar Class 4 company on March 3, trainer Shane Baertschiger was right in sticking to the same journey.
Coupled with his instructions to jockey John Powell to avoid going around the outside, given his tendency to get a little above himself when exposed, the well-laid battle plan paid off when Athletica drove through the pack to emerge a one-length winner at the business end.
Storm Ryker did seem to have the race all stitched up when he charged to the front at the top of the straight, but the move proved to be a fraction too soon.
Backed down to $12 favouritism, Athletica held sway inside the last furlong to go and open his account for his owner, New Zealand real estate entrepreneur Tommy Heptinstall of Hong Kong champion Werther fame.
Street Party had every chance but he lacked the dash to match the first two, finishing third another two lengths away. The winning time was 1min 39.13secs for the Polytrack mile.
“This was the right race for him even if he gave the second horse six kilos,” said Baertschiger.
“He needs further. I’ve been a bit hard on him, putting him over the wrong distances. When we stepped him up to the mile at his last start, he ran super.
“That proves he is not as ungenuine as most people think. He can only improve further.
“Tonight, I told JP not to go to the outside. He did the right thing by having that horse on his outside in the backstraight.”
Powell echoed Baertschiger’s opinion that the New Zealand-bred had been a tricky commodity to weigh up, but he was certainly not without some potential.
“He was probably a bit unlucky at his previous runs, even inconsistent,” said the Australian rider.
“We were a bit worried he would go hard, but he settled nicely tonight. His mannerisms have been a fraction better with each start.
“After he was gelded, as it’s often the case for horses who are gelded, he just needed three or four runs to get his confidence back.”
A one-time winner over 1200m in New Zealand, Athletica now boasts a local record of one win and two seconds from five starts for stakes earnings closing in on the S$50,000 mark for Heptinstall.
In a rare combination with trainer Saimee Jumaat, Powell went on to ring up a riding double aboard $130 longshot Red Riding Wood two races later in the S$38,000 Kranji Stakes D race over 1600m. -STC