Michael Clements lauded champion jockey Manoel Nunes for his hard graft in Siam Royal Orchid’s workmanlike win on Saturday.
To the trainer, another jockey may not have produced the same result in the $50,000 Class 4 Division 2 race over the Polytrack 1,200m.
The Brazilian certainly earned every cent of his riding fee aboard the Shamus Award six-year-old right from barrier rise.
Plotting a wide course, he had Siam Royal Orchid off the bridle for most of the journey.
However, the gelding showed no let-up, even quickening inside the last 200m to post an impressive 1/2-length victory over last-start Class 5 winner King Zoustar (A’Isisuhairi Kasim).
Clements, who now races the former Thai-owned gelding himself, said past experience was key to Nunes’ unorthodox but effective ride.
“Nunes sat on him twice before and got to know him better,” said the Zimbabwe-born Singaporean, in reference to Siam Royal Orchid’s last two starts for a second and a third, both to Big Tiger.
“He rode a fantastic race. I was just telling my assistant trainer Michael White this morning it was the rider who won the race.
“This horse is lazy, both in training and in his races. But Nunes was on his case right from the get-go.
“Without going crazy, he rode him along the whole way to get some momentum. He had to come a bit wide, but he had a strong momentum and he kept him going.
“When a jockey rides this way, the result is usually not so good, but they finished strongly.
“Having a bit of knowledge of the horse did help Nunes get the best out of him.”
It was Siam Royal Orchid’s first win after more than a year and fifth in 29 starts. All his victories were over the Poly 1,200m.
Clements knows he may not bloom much more.
“He is more in his element at the top of Class 4. We’ll just run him where he is comfortable,” he said.
“He is getting on a bit, but he’s a very sound horse. He seems to also prefer the Polytrack.”
Nunes may have contributed only one of his wins, but the kick he got out of it – the second leg of yet another four-timer – was well worth the hard work put in.
“He’s such a big horse, and is not easy to ride. You have to ride him all the way through,” said the three-time Singapore champion and this season’s runaway leader.
“I’m very pleased to get the results, as I knew the horse better after two rides, and I knew I had to get busy with him from the start.
“ It was hard work and the rain didn’t help, but I’m fit now.
“I was actually happy when I saw the draw in barrier No. 5 even though it was not a big field. I was worried I cannot take him out if he misses the start.”
More combinations will certainly be afoot for Clements and Nunes. But not in Saturday’s $1 million Group 1 Kranji Mile (1,600m).
Clements is fielding a quartet – Heartening Flyer, Spirit Of Big Bang, Top Knight and Trumpy, but Nunes is riding Katak for Ricardo Le Grange.
He has booked Louis-Philippe Beuzelin, Shafrizal Saleh, Benny Woodworth and apprentice jockey Hakim Kamaruddin on Spirit Of Big Bang, Heartening Flyer, Top Knight and Trumpy respectively.
The big-race trainer is, for once, not in charge of any leading fancy in the much-awaited first feature race of the year, but stays upbeat.
If he had to single out a “smokie”, he was inclined to pick Heartening Flyer, despite the Excelebration five-year-old’s patchy recent form.
“The weight-for-age conditions work against my three horses. It won’t be easy for them, but they will all enjoy getting over the distance,” he said.
“Heartening Flyer didn’t run well at his last start. He’s not the soundest horse around, and we’ve tried to cut the corners to turn him around.
“We’ve always believed he was up to Group 1 level, but he hasn’t had the right opportunities. To me, he’s the dark horse in the race if things come right on the day.
“Hard Too Think had a good run at his last start, the Lim’s horses (Lim’s Lightning and Lim’s Kosciuszko) seemed better this week. But I think Hard Too Think will be the horse to beat.”