Exciting two-year-old Inferno lived up to his pre-race top billing to saunter to an authoritative win in the fifth and final Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series, the S$250,000 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) on Friday.
An impressive debut winner in the fourth leg, the Magic Millions 2YOs In Training Sale Stakes (1200m) 12 days ago, the Cliff Brown-trained and Michael Rodd-ridden son of Holy Roman Emperor made winning look academic after defying a wide trip without cover to still make light work of his 15 juvenile rivals with consummate ease inside the last 300m.
While some enthusiastic quarters might be accused of jumping to hasty conclusions, but the way Inferno obliterated the field in those familiar pink silks did bring echoes of Brown’s semi-retired superstar Debt Collector.
It’s not because both are raced by the same combination of Brown, Rodd and Barree Stable of Glenn Whittenbury, but that electric turn of foot as they whip around their rivals from the point of the turn was just uncannily identical.
Held in midfield coursing out three to four deep, Inferno was a picture of absolute professional when he let down on cue at the top of the straight, never mind his inclination to hang in a touch – antics forgiven when you are a raw two-year-old who can’t quite tutor the raw power and engine underneath.
Hotshots Slam, who actually pinched the $16 favourite tag late from Inferno, was thereabouts from the get-go after breaking from a much handier barrier (three compared to Inferno’s 17), and tried to muster a counteroffensive when Inferno came on terms on his outside at the 300m.
But as hard as Shane Baertschiger’s No 1 hope from his quartet of runners tried for about 150m, there was just no stopping that fireball of Inferno.
After getting a cart from behind Inferno, Rocket Star kept whacking away when peeled to the outside, but had to again play second fiddle to Inferno, and beaten by the same two-length margin (they finished in that order in the fourth Leg).
Hotshots Slam gave his all but wilted late to finish third another head away, a neck ahead of Count Me In, who was ridden for luck from the awkward draw to run a creditable fourth.
Undefeated at his first two runs, Big Hearted did himself a major disservice when he bungled his start. The son of Hallowed Crown tried to cut corners by threading a needle through the pack from the 500m, and even looked half a chance when he loomed at the 300m, but the early efforts to recover from the lengths lost at barrier rise proved costly in the end.
Michael Clements’ gallant two-year-old ran on sheer courage to cling on for fifth place, beaten only a short head, half-a-length ahead of early race-leader Beer Garden.
Inferno, who was sold as a yearling through Westbury Stud's 2018 New Zealand Book 1 yearling draft, clocked 1min 10.76secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.
Brown was as usual not all that effusive in his post-race declarations even if that sense of anticipation and trepidation at Inferno’s future endeavours was palpable.
“There was always a concern he was on a 12-day back-up. He had a lot against him going into the race,” said the Australian trainer.
“You always get a bit swept in by the emotions after the win, but it was a great win today. I’ll have to have another look at the race, there were a lot of horses who had bad luck in the run.
“It was also a tough win and he will go for a break now. I may bring him back for the Saas Fee Stakes (1200m) at the end of the year (November 10). It’s a race for three-year-olds now.”
Clearly blessed with the Midas touch on Friday, red-hot Rodd was at his fourth winner in a row (after Bluestone, Boy Next Door and River Radiance scored one after another). The affable jockey was just gobsmacked by the way Inferno pulled his way into the race from the get-go to the line.
“I just wanted to keep him out of trouble early. There were a lot of quick horses on my inside,” said the Australian jockey.
“I was three and a half wide, but he switched off so easy for me. He just rested out there and just travelled, he was never under pressure.
“Straightening up, I just wanted to get closer to JP’s (John Powell) horse (Hotshots Slam) to see what he’s got. We came next to him, and I thought we got there a bit too early, but he just went past him so easily.
“I just gave him a backhand. He laid in a little again, but he was better than at his last start.
“He’s a remarkable horse, he’s got such long big strides.”
With that second win from as many starts, Inferno has already pocketed close to S$175,000 in stakes earnings for the Barree Stable. -STC