Gutsy winner Mr Hooper became one of the first beneficiaries of the recent widening of rating bands on Friday night.
After the Shamexpress three-year-old’s second win back in February when he carved up a Kranji Stakes Division 2 field, an eight-point penalty saw him rise to 63 points.
Trainer James Peters could henceforth only run the Oscar Racing Stable-owned gelding in either Kranji Stakes C or Class 3 company.
Mixed results ensued, though. He led and only weakened late in a Class 3 Division 2 race in February, but he fluffed his lines at the start at his next race in a Kranji Stakes C race, beating two home. They were all races over his pet trip of 1200m.
They did not dent Peters’ faith in his charge, though. The British handler still believed there was something under the bonnet, even toying with the daring idea of a fling at the first Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, the JBBA Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) last Friday.
But on second thoughts, he decided Mr Hooper wasn’t quite ready to be thrown in at the deep end yet.
Then he remembered the change in ratings effective from April 1. With the wider overlap in the Class ratings band, Mr Hopper was eligible for an easier Class 4 race.
From an original 44-61 range, Class 4 races had been extended up to 67 points.
The easier company sure gave Mr Hooper a decent shot at a return to winning ways, but the outermost alley in 12 did throw a dampener.
However, Peters’ booking of Mr Hooper’s last winning partner, four-kilo claimer Syahir Abdul was worth its weight of gold in the end.
Utilising his mount’s early gate speed, the young Singaporean rider was able to posie up in the leading bunch, albeit trapped four deep initially before easing into a handy spot on the girth of race-leader Super Smart (Benny Woodworth) at the 600m.
The fighting pair kept matching motors in the home straight, but under a determined ride from Syahir, Mr Hooper stood firm to score by a half-length margin on the line.
The well-supported Bartimaeus did threaten when he came poking his head through on the rails, but had to settle for third place another length away. The winning time was 1min 12.14secs for the 1200m on the Polytrack.
“He’s a nice horse. I did think of running him in the 3YO Sprint, but then I thought of those Class 4 races that are now open to Benchmark 67,” said Peters.
“In the end, we went for the softer option. The Class 4 race was a more realistic target.
“I booked Syahir early as he is a valuable four-kilo claimer. He was caught three wide with no cover, but he is a very progressive 3YO.
“At his last start, he missed the start and was too far back, but tonight he was in a good position throughout.
“I’m glad to have another winner as it’s been pretty quiet since my last win (Grand Koonta on March 1). It’s good to get another winner for CK (Chian Kin) Phua (Oscar Racing) who has been a good supporter of mine.
“He has a smaller team of horses now, but I still have a couple of horses for him. Mr Alonso runs on Sunday and I hope he goes well, too.”
After that earlier winning pairing in February, Syahir had since held Mr Hooper in high regard, but thought he was out of luck when the draws came out for their second combination.
“We were unlucky to draw 14 (down to 12 after the scratchings), but I knew he had the speed to come across,” said Syahir.
“He travelled nicely, he wasn’t as keen as the other day when I won on him. He probably found Class 3 a bit too tough, and I think the four-kilo claim helped him in the last 100m as well.”
Mr Hooper has now taken his record to three wins and one second from eight starts for stakes earnings in excess of $110,000 mark for the Oscar Racing Stable. -STC