Trainer Cliff Brown had three nominations in this year’s $1 million Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) but will most likely watch the feature race without a runner this Sunday.
The Australian horseman boasts one Kranji Mile victory to his roll of honour, the 2016 renewal which was then the Panasonic-sponsored version won by his champion Debt Collector. In the last two Kranji Miles run as an Invitational race hogged by Hong Kong’s Southern Legend on both occasions, Brown was present with Elite Excalibur (unplaced) in the inaugural edition in 2018 and Debt Collector (fourth) last year, with Elite Excalibur finishing at the rear.
The Kranji Mile reverts to domestic Group 1 format (no overseas raiders) this year because of the chaos brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Brown still misses out.
An eye-catching fourth to Passport To Rome at his last start, Threeandfourpence (82 points) would have made the cut by virtue of his 16th spot in the order of entry (maximum field is 16) and would have been a live chance, but the US-bred War Front five-year-old was scratched on Wednesday on vet grounds.
“Threeandfourpence had sore feet. I was not happy with him, so he won’t run in the Kranji Mile,” said Brown.
Elite Incredible is the second Emergency Acceptor, but would not have been totally out of his depth going on his closing fourth to Mr Malek in a 1200m race not made to suit last Saturday. However, unless two runners are withdrawn by Sunday morning, the Argentinian-bred entire will stay in his box.
But the one Brownie that racing fans would have loved to see in the Kranji Mile is without a doubt exciting prospect Pax Animi.
After shooting to 78 points courtesy of five points earned from his last-start first-up win in a Class 3 race over 1400m on August 2, Pax Animi (Latin for peace of mind) could have just snuck in with a couple of higher-rated nominations dropping out, but Brown preferred to run his stable’s next rising star after Inferno, in an alternative event three races earlier, the $85,000 Waikato 2009 Stakes Class 2 race over the mile.
Regardless of the course plotted for the son of Rebel Raider, the grand final had always been meant to be the $500,000 Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) in three weeks’ time, even if the journey there has this year gone completely askew because of the virus.
With the feature race postponed from April 18 to September 6 as part of the rejigged post-Circuit Breaker racing calendar, technically speaking, the Buffalo Stable and Nick Johnston-owned three-time winner (1200m to 1400m) should not have qualified for the third and most prestigious Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge because the Australian-bred would have turned five on August 1.
But a one-off tweaking of the conditions to accommodate Southern Hemisphere-bred five-year-olds has reopened the door.
“Pax Animi will run in the Class 2 race over the mile, which is a nice natural step-up from the 1400m first-up,” said Brown.
“It’s not a bad race at all, there are some very nice horses in it. I think Lee’s (Freedman) horse (Minister) is a very good frontrunner and will be hard to beat if he gets his own way in front.
“My horse will get back, but he may struggle a bit if it’s a leader-dominated track. Win, lose or draw, his grand final is on September 6, the Derby, anyway.”
With the postage-stamp load of 50kgs, Brown went for South African lightweight jockey Juan Paul van der Merwe, who booted home three winners for Brown before, the latest being Superlative on January 12.
“JP rides for us a fair bit and it was logical we picked him. We knew the horse would have no weight on his back,” said Brown.
“He’s up in class, but I hope he’ll measure up. He had his last gallop on Wednesday, and he went very well.”
– Singapore Turf Club