Honest miler Nova Strike (NZ) (Red Giant) recorded a well-deserved second feature win when he took out the S$200,000 Moonbeam Vase (1600m) on Sunday.
After losing his way a little earlier in the year, Nova Strike regained his spark with Olivier Placais jumping aboard.
Placais kept the faith in Nova Strike even if their last partnership in the Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) three weeks ago was a big dampener (seventh to Preditor).
To the French jockey, it was a race to forget as he could not be ridden quiet as he wanted.
After a smart jump in the Moonbeam Vase, Nova Strike was able to settle in the first few, running more relaxed and just in need to be produced at the right time for his challenge.
But when favourite Lim’s Magic drew on level terms at the 400m, with jockey Glen Boss hardly flexing a muscle, the race looked all sewn up. Stephen Gray’s galloper was jogging, all poised to toy with his rivals whenever he felt like it.
However, that impression of ease can be deceptive. It was all turned on its head as Lim’s Magic laid in under pressure, unable to muster any acceleration when Boss got busy.
It was Nova Strike, who instead found another length, as he shook Lim’s Magic off to make a beeline for the winning post well clear, turning the tables on Preditor who ran on well for second one and a quarter length away.
Tan said the Moonbeam Vase was a race tailor-made for Nova Strike and Placais also deserved kudos for his 10-out-of-10 handling.
“I’ve just been waiting for this race for Nova Strike. He’s a top class horse, and it’s very hard to find a race for him,” said the Singaporean handler.
“Oli did a good job on him. He judged the race very well.
“I will probably give him a small break as his body weight always goes up and down, but I might run him in the Raffles Cup next.”
To be run in three weeks’ time on September 23, the Raffles Cup is the new first Leg (used to be the second Leg) of the revamped Singapore Triple Crown series and has been dropped from 1800m to 1600m for the first time this year.
“He’s actually a nice horse, and has been running very good races like in the Kranji Mile where he showed he could fight against the best. He’s a horse who races with all his heart every time I ride him,” said Placais.
“In the Jumbo Jet Trophy, I had to ride him out too early and it didn’t suit him. We had to ignore that race and I think the mile is also better than 1400m.
“He was travelling very well throughout. Not quite a flying carpet, but more like a conveyor belt – gliding well within his own steam under me.
“But when Glen’s horse (Lim’s Magic) came up next to me, I thought he would win easily and we would fight for the minors.
“Then his horse started to lay on us and I couldn’t use my whip in my right hand. As I couldn’t change the whip, I rode him hands and heels and waited till we were clear to pull the whip again.
“From the way he won today, he can definitely run over longer distances.”
Should Tan race him next in the Raffles Cup, Placais may find himself saddled with a happy headache.
“Jupiter Gold is running in the Raffles Cup, too, but Nova Strike will also be a good chance if he runs,” said Placais who was aboard Jupiter Gold at the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby (1800m) win in July.
“We’ll cross the bridge when we get to it. I’ll just enjoy this Group win today, and if there is a horse who deserved to win a Group race today, it was certainly Nova Strike.”
Though beaten fair and square, Powell said Preditor ran out of his skin but was beaten by a better horse on the day, except that in hindsight, he wished they were not as close to the firing line during the race.
“He ran a good race, but I think we may have been two lengths closer in the running,” said the Australian jockey.
“I think that may have worked against him, but he still ran super.”
With that 10th win from 45 starts, including a handy record of 16 placings, Nova Strike has now amassed in excess of S$1.2 million for the Nova Racing Stable. -STC