April 27, 2014Newhaven Park bred Zac Spirit sprints away with Lion City Cup

Newhaven Park bred Zac Spirit sprints away with Lion City Cup

Zac Spirit sprints away with Lion City Cup
Jonathan Wong

The first Group 1 race of the year saw the coronation of Zac Spirit as the country’s sprint king as the Flying Spur four-year-old stamped his class on the $500,000 Lion City Cup with an all-conquering display on Sunday.


Ridden by Alan Munro, the Australian-bred gelding was utterly dominant in the third and final leg of the Singapore Sprint Series as he defeated his nemesis Emperor Max (Lisa Allpress) for the second time in a 1200m race.


The two have squared off for the first time in the Group 3 Kranji Sprint earlier this month and there was practically nothing separating the two as Zac Spirit emerged victorious by just a short head, ending his arch-rival’s unbeaten record.


This time however, there was clear daylight between them as Zac Spirit posted a blistering time of 1min 8.78secs on the Short Course, crossing the line with a length-and-a-half to spare from the Stephen Gray-trained galloper.

Zac Spirit (Alan Munro) is just too good in the Group 1 Lion City Cup.

Finishing on the podium but coming up short once again was jockey Barend Vorster (aboard Goal Keeper who was a short head away in third). The South African hoop was involved in the two previous feature events of the day (the Group 3 Admiralty Classic Stakes and the Group 2 Queen Elizabeth II Cup) but also walked away empty-handed.


Winning trainer Cliff Brown, on the other hand, had his hands full as he lifted the gold replica of the Lion City Cup, inaugurated in 1974 and one of the oldest and most prestigious races in Singapore’s horse racing history.


It may have been his second Group 1 triumph after he won the Emirates Singapore Derby with Clint in 2011 but the Australian handler was still happy to soak it all in.


“It’s an unusual feeling,” he said. “I’ve won a few Group 3 sprint races but never the big one, a Group 1.


“It’s been a long campaign for me and this horse but today he really showed what he’s capable of and I’m really happy with the way he ran.”


While Zac Spirit has dominated the local scene, he will face a much bigger test next month when he lines up for the $1 million KrisFlyer International Sprint (1200m) on May 18 as he takes on some of the best sprinters from around the world.


Not that Brown, who has now masterminded eights wins with Zac Spirit from 12 starts and collected around $835,000 in stakes earnings for the Zac Stable, was apprehensive in the least.


“We just need to keep ticking him over and I think there’s still improvement in him before the KrisFlyer,” he said.


Sharing his optimism was Munro, who stretched his perfect record aboard Zac Spirit to four wins from four rides.


“Credit to Cliff for all the work he’s done with this horse to get him to this level. The next step for him will be to face the international horses,” he said.


“He’s a funny horse. He seems to lose momentum at the end and always gives me the feeling that there’s more he can give but there’s nothing left to chase for him anyway.


“So maybe against the international horses they’ll give him something to think about and chase and we’ll see him run even better.”

Trainer Cliff Brown, owner Andy Wong of Zac Stable and jockey Alan Munro toast to Zac Spirit’s success.

Zac Spirit ($10) had all the answers however, against the best Singapore had to offer. The classy galloper is not known to be a bold frontrunner and once again stuck to his usual strategy, content to let others make their move early and only switching on the afterburners down the home straight.


Here it was the seasoned pair of Mr Big (David Flores) and Goal Keeper who traded positions at the front as Zac Spirit hummed along quietly behind them before Munro released the handbrakes on his mount who powered home like the well-oiled machine he has resembled.


“There was good pace and he settled very cleanly after the jump,” said Munro. “Once he starting giving chase I knew he had a good finish.”


Beaten for the second straight race by Zac Spirit may have been disheartening but Allpress was generous in her praise for the victor.


“He’s a really good horse and there was nothing we could do,” said the Kiwi jockey. “It wasn’t a great start and we were further back than we wanted. Just like the last race we were not in a good position at the back to really challenge.”


For the normally-reserved Munro, his 30th winner of the season and fifth Group 1 title since relocating here in 2012 prompted an unusual moment of reflection mixed with his typical British humour.


“I’ve had a great time here and I know there’s not a lot of time left for me,” said veteran hoop, who was a sprightly 24-year-old when he won the Epsom Derby in 1991.


“So I’m going to try and bank as much money as I can for my kids’ education. The third one is on the way after all.”

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