Trainer Alwin Tan could not be happier with the way Infantry’s (NZ) (Tavistock) two barrier trials have brought him on ahead of his comeback race next Saturday week.
Two weeks after his first 1000m hit-out, the 2017 Singapore Horse of the Year again had French jockey Ryan Curatolo in the saddle at the second one on Tuesday - and with similar results.
Infantry again ran second, except that the margin of five lengths behind Boy Wonder was a lot wider than the nose second to Macarthur on January 25, which was normal given the quicker time clocked by Boy Wonder.
With Infantry’s previous regular partner Manoel Nunes now plying his trade in Macau, the presence of Curatolo in the saddle at the two trials was a good pointer as to who will be the new rider this campaign.
Tan was not too fussed who sits atop, as to him, Infantry is pretty bombproof and straightforward. To him, the most important was to see his star galloper come through his post-injury prep with flying colours.
The Tavistock five-year-old was shaping up as a leading Triple Crown contender when he bagged the first Leg, the Panasonic Kranji Mile in October, but a deep cut sustained during that run left Tan with no other choice but to scrap the second Leg (Raffles Cup over 1800m).
The gallant gelding recovered and lined up in the third Leg, the Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) in November, but the interrupted preparation undermined his final dash inside the last 300m. It was just sheer class that saw him cling on to a brave fifth to Gilt Complex (NZ) (Gold Centre).
Tan has since given the injury all the time in the world to heal up, and with his first-up race, the Fortune Bowl (1400m) only nine days away, he said the Thai-owned champion was right on target.
“It was a very nice trial on Tuesday. Curatolo gave him an easy time and he finished off nicely,” said the 2016 Singapore champion trainer.
“That was it. As he’s already had a barrier trial on Tuesday, he will just take it easy in the next few days, he will have one easy gallop on Saturday and another easy one next Tuesday.
“His near hind fetlock injury is behind him now. I am confident he will be presented close to his peak in the Fortune Bowl.
“The new 1400m for the Fortune Bowl (used to be 2000m and was dropped to 1600m for only one renewal last year) is just nice for a first-up run, and it will also give us a good guide for Dubai.”
Infantry has been nominated for the US$6 million Group 1 Dubai Turf (1800m), the US$2 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200m) and the US$1 million Group 2 Godolphin Mile (1600m) to be run on March 31 at Meydan.
“If he is not invited to Dubai, it’s okay, as there are a lot of good races coming up in April and May,” he said.
Whether Curatolo will be his partner in the long run remains to be seen, but the former Macau-based jockey could not fault the way Infantry was coming along.
“At his first trial, he was a little heavier, but the pace was not too hot, and he ran on okay,” he said.
“He was a lot better at the second one. Again, he takes a while to wind up and besides he is not a 1000m horse, but he was quickening very well in the straight.
“I had him on the bit and he was very strong to the line. I had a few choices for the Fortune Bowl, but I’ve put my hand up for Infantry as he’s the class horse, and I hope I get to ride him.” -STC