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A first major for Meiner Frost
Michael Lee

Noboru Takagi does not speak much English, but language barrier seems to suit the Japanese trainer fine as he would rather let his Singapore Airlines International Cup runner Meiner Frost do all the talking on Sunday.


Though not at his maiden voyage, the 49-year-old still looked a little gauche as he was again thrusted in the big fish bowl of global horse racing, this time around in Singapore, where the assembled media was waiting for every morsel of information about his credentials.


Leaving all the public relations side to his trusty assistant-trainer cum track rider cum interpreter Satoshi Manukata, Takagi had eyes only for Meiner Frost, a name which meant precious little to most local racegoers a few days ago.

Meiner Frost and his trainer Noboru Takagi take five after trackwork on Friday.

But since Takagi’s arrival at Kranji on Thursday, there was no mistaking whose touch the long-striding grey galloper has come under in his prep towards his $3 million mission in the International Group 1 race over 2000m at Kranji this Sunday.


Takagi said the training regimen the Black Tide four-year-old entire had undergone was traced along the same one Snow Dragon, his first Grade 1 winner (Sprinters Stakes last October) and very first traveller, went through when he ran unplaced in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) last December.


By coincidence, Meiner Frost and Snow Dragon are both greys, but Takagi is hoping their similarities will only stop at their coat, and not the race result.


“Meiner Frost followed the same training pattern as Snow Dragon in Hong Kong, but I hope he will do better,” said Takagi.


“He has already done all his work at Hiro and we just want to keep him happy in Singapore. I did not see his only gallop on Wednesday but I was happy with what Satoshi told me.


“He ran third in the Japanese Derby (2400m) last year and he won his last start in Fukushima (2000m) race. He is fit and did not need much work.”

Japanese trainer Noboru Takagi (right) shares a light-hearted moment with his assistant-trainer
Satoshi Manukata at the Kranji tracks.

Even though Meiner Frost has not scored at Group level and is at his maiden overseas experience, he is quite highly rated in the SIA Cup’s 11-horse field. On 115 points, he sits third on par with last year’s runner-up Smoking Sun, and behind two previous victors, Military Attack (123) and Dan Excel (119).


Whether he can measure up on Sunday is still a question mark, but Takagi knows Meiner Frost is not the only dark horse in terms of international exposure.


Introduced to racing through his uncle who owns a horse farm, Takagi first worked as assistant-trainer at the Yamazaki Stable for 15 years. Having been in the training business at Hiro for only 10 years, he is considered a relative newbie, which is mirrored by his modest haul of around 130 winners up to now.

Satoshi Manukata takes Meiner Frost through a searching gallop on the grass on Wednesday.

Besides Snow Dragon’s Sprinters Stakes win at Niigata last October, he also picked up a couple of domestic Grade 3 wins last year, his best season thus far, but he is obviously not as well-known as the likes of fellow Japanese trainers Yasutoshi Ikee of Deep Impact fame or Katsuhiko Sumii, who quinellaed the Melbourne Cup with Delta Blues and Pop Rock in 2006.


Takagi, who currently has the cap of 22 horses in work at Miho and another 30 elsewhere, including Hokkaido, is not too fazed by his lack of pedigree, though. He is already pinching himself he has been invited to a second city barely five months after Snow Dragon took him to his first overseas raid in Hong Kong.


“I only started to think about Singapore two months ago. We filled the nomination form and we are honoured we were invited by the Singapore Turf Club,” said Takagi.


“I think it will be a good experience for him. The race is not that strong and I think he has a good chance.


“It was the owners (K Thoroughbred Club Ruffian) who chose jockey Masumi Matsuoka as he has ridden Meiner Frost before, but also because he rode Cosmo Bulk (2006 SIA Cup) to sixth in the same race in 2008. He knows the track.

“The owners are very big in Japan and call their horses Meiner ‘something’. They have only two horses with me, Meiner Frost and Meiner Force who won the Grade 3 Mainichi Hai Stakes for us.


“It would be nice if Meiner Frost won his first Group race, too. The SIA Cup would be a nice one to win.”