The 1200m trip might not be ideal, but the Michael Clements-trained Pacific Emperor can still have a big say in the $110,000 Group 3 Rocket Man Sprint on Sunday.
The four-year-old Australian-bred gelding had been a revelation since his Singapore debut in April this year after he won at all four starts, including his latest run in a Class 2 race over 1400m on July 23.
The son of Caravaggio – who won one race from two starts in Australia before coming to Singapore – beat some handy types then, including Gold Star, Kharisma and Fame Star, all of whom he will meet again in the second Leg of the STC Super Sprint series.
While that win over seven furlongs suggested he would be better over longer distances, a crack at a handicapped Group race while in winning form was hard to pass for all involved.
According to assistant-trainer Michael White, the rising star of the Pacific Stable has bigger fishes to fry later in the season, but he is good enough to overcome the obstacles on Sunday.
“To be fair to him (Pacific Emperor), it’s probably the wrong race at this stage of his preparation,” said the Australian horseman, also known as ‘Chopsy’.
“He showed at his last start over seven furlongs on the turf against some good horses that he is turning into a miler.
“We rode him quieter and he took his time to rein them in, so dropping him back to 1200m is not ideal.
“While he’s only handicapped at 50kgs, he’s not that well off at the weights compared against that few same horses he met at his last start. (Jockey) CC (Wong Chin Chuen) would probably ride him a kilo or so over too.
“He’s drawn awkwardly (barrier eight) too and it’s a short run into the first bend on the Long Course, so CC may have to ride him ice cold and hope for luck.
“But he’s a chance – it’s not a vintage Rocket Man Sprint on paper – and if he wins, he would be an even better horse than we already think he is.”
How good did the stable thought he was when he landed in January and how good could he get?
“(Owner) Jimmy (Poh) was looking for good horses and bought him through (bloodstood agent) Bevan Smith,” explained White.
“He was impressive winning his first start (in a 1200m race on October 27, 2022) in a small field (of five) for (previous trainers) Mick Price (and Mick Kent Junior).
“A deal was done after he placed in a good field at his next start (in a 1200m race on November 12, 2022).
“We liked him from the moment he got to the stable, but the best thing was that he (Pacific Emperor) improved almost every day.
“From his work, to his trials and to his races, we raised the bar and he kept on improving, which is a pretty good sign he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet.
“Ideally, we would have probably bypassed this race (Rocket Man Sprint) and set him up for some of the feature races over 1600m (the Group 1 Raffles Cup on September 23) and 1800m (the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Cup on October 14) later in the year as we think he will be good enough for them.
“But again, he deserves a crack this Sunday. It is his fifth run this preparation though, so we will make adjustments and it will become a race-by-race programme from here.”
As a four-year-old, the three Legs of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge next year, namely the Group 3 Silver Bowl (1400m) Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m), are also well on the agenda.
“For sure, that’s his aim next year,” he said.
“He showed at his last start that 1400m was no problem and we will definitely have a set pathway for him to have a good crack at that (4YO) series.
“You would imagine he will improve again after a break, so it is exciting for the stable.”
Pacific Emperor aside, the Clements’ stable looked to have a few solid chances on Sunday with White suggesting that Great Warrior in the $50,000 Class 4 race over 1600m, Absolute Radiance in the $30,000 Class 5 race over 1800m and Pacific Star in the $50,000 Class 4 race over 1400m will all benefit from the good gates.
“Look, I think the barriers are really important for Great Warrior (barrier two), Absolute Radiance (barrier three) and Pacific Star (barrier two),” he said.
“They all did work at their last starts from awkward gates and now looks ready to win if things go their way.
“(Jockey) Manoel (Nunes) rides both Pacific Emperor and Absolute Radiance and Vlad (Duric) is on Pacific Star, so all three runners are in good hands and no excuses.”
– Singapore Turf Club