Bookmark and Share
Cooptado flies in for Shaw's third Gold Cup
Michael Lee

South African master trainer Patrick Shaw won his third Singapore Gold Cup after Argentinian-bred stayer Cooptado landed the time-honoured race in a heart-stopping finish on Sunday.


Heading into this year’s renewal of the Longines-sponsored Group 1 race with a smashing four-pronged attack, the 59-year-old Durbanite, who already had two previous Singapore Gold Cups to his name (Mr Line in 2006 and Quechua last year), again cemented his mettle as a conditioner of stayers with a podium finish for two of them - Cooptado on top and Perfect P third - while Quechua and Emperor’s Banquet did not finish far behind in fifth and sixth place respectively.


While to some observers, Cooptado was arguably the unproven quantity among Shaw’s foursome given he had yet to open his Kranji account in six runs, Shaw always knew the Equal Stripes five-year-old would hit his straps once he steps over the right trip.

Cooptado (Shafiq Rizuan, on the inside) comes from behind to pip joint-favourite Fastnet Dragon (Alan Munro) in
the Longines Singapore Gold Cup.

A closing fourth in the Gold Cup trial, the Group 3 El Dorado Classic (2200m) three weeks ago had Shaw brimming with some confidence for the Russian-owned Cooptado, though he could not split the other trio either, but in the end it was Cooptado’s proven stamina that won the day, albeit by only a head from a very brave and again unlucky Fastnet Dragon (Alan Munro).


A touch suspect at the distance before the race, Perfect P (Barend Vorster) finished a meritorious third another 2 ¾ lengths away. The winning time was 2min 14.69secs for the 2200m on the Long Course.


“He was the true stayer among the four, obviously along with Quechua, who showed he had the distance when he won the race last year,” said Shaw.


“Emperor’s Banquet always does well and he was not far behind. Perfect P was the only doubtful over the trip but he showed he got the 2200m with his third place.


“But when we got Cooptado from Argentina, my agent Ignacio already told us he was one of the best stayers there. He came with a big reputation but we still had to give him time to prove himself.


“When he came for the SIA Cup (Singapore Airlines International Cup), we were trying to figure him out within such short notice. His body weight was an issue as (previous Dubai trainer) Doug (Watson) doesn’t weigh his horses.


“He was not ready in the SIA Cup, but with more time, he’s slowly improved and never ran a bad race. I’ve been increasing his distances and the Gold Cup was always going to suit him.


“But after three months with us, we realised he had some back issues. We had to treat his back with a lot of acupuncture and luckily, he’s come right.


“I was very happy with his run in the El Dorado when he carried 57 kg while giving Sebrose seven kilos. When I put a set of blinkers on him, he really travelled a lot better and I knew he would run well in the Gold Cup.


“He travelled well in the race, and with a good ride from Shafiq, he got there right in the nick of time.”


With the bulk of his horses belonging to either fellow South African owner Fred Crabbia or the Avengers/Tmen Stable, Shaw was delighted he had picked up the biggest prize on the Singapore racing calendar for Russian owners Evgeny Kappushev and Valentin Bukhtoyarov of Red Stable.


“I have to thank Evgeny and Valentin for their support and patience. It’s nice for them to win the Gold Cup even if they’re not here,” said Shaw.


“It’s also wonderful I have won three Gold Cups. Laurie (Laxon) is always having a dig at me, but I’ve won three and he’s still on two, but I’m only joking as he’s a great trainer!


“It’s funny how I was known as a staying trainer all my life, as I won three Derbies in South Africa and also won the July Handicap with Teal, but then came Rocket Man.


“But it’s a fact I’ve always had a lot of luck with stayers and I guess there must be some truth to it.”


The race itself panned out according to the script most had anticipated - frontrunner Order Of The Sun (Benny Woodworth) crossing to the lead from the first turn and hoping to stun his 15 rivals with a widening break from the halfway mark, including Cooptado, who dropped to the rear early, lobbing along in the third tier of the capacity field.


But the race was on when the gap narrowed considerably from the 800m with Twickenham (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) and joint-favourite Fastnet Dragon ($22) leading the charge while Cooptado looked a little flat-footed at the rear, prompting Shafiq to give him a few smacking reminders with the whip.


As the field rounded the home turn, that is where the staying cream rises to the top while those with weary legs drop out. Twickenham showed the white flag but Fastnet Dragon burst to the front and looked all set to hand trainer Leslie Khoo a dream first feature win in a race that even eluded him as a topline jockey in the Bukit Timah era.


After a hard run three wide, the other joint-favourite Quechua (Corey Brown) was closing in but he looked more dour while Sebrose (Manoel Nunes) was also steaming home from the rear, but it was Cooptado who looked the most likely to upstage Fastnet Dragon as he snuck up from his rearward spot to land in a perfect striking position with an inviting saloon passage opening up along the rails, especially with Fastnet Dragon beginning to drift out under pressure.


The last 100m was a sight to behold with an English Derby-winning jockey and Kranji’s champion apprentice jockey-elect at the height of their craft, extracting the last drop of petrol left in their mounts to snare the thicker end of the $1.35 million purse.


They both gave 100% but in the end, the winner was Cooptado, handing Shafiq his first-ever Group 1 silverware.

A Golden moment in time: (from left) Trainer Patrick Shaw, apprentice jockey Shafiq Rizuan and assistant-trainer
Ricardo Le Grange.

“This means a lot to me. It’s my first Group 1 win and the Gold Cup is the biggest Group 1 race here,” said the Kelantan-born 2011 champion apprentice jockey.

“This year is definitely even better than the first year I won the title. I think I should be safe for a second champion title (53 wins versus A’Isisuhairi’s 29), and now the Gold Cup, it doesn’t get any better than this.

“Though it was my first time riding this horse in a race, I rode him a few times in trackwork and I was confident he would run well.

“He’s a real stayer, and I wasn’t worried he was far back early as 2200m is very long, but at the 1000m I thought he couldn’t win when he dropped the bit.

“But when I woke him up and kept riding him, he started to respond very well. He just kept improving and he hit the line very strong.

“I have to thank Mr Shaw and the owners for putting me on this horse. It’s a moment I will never forget.”

Interestingly, the Mark Walker-indentured Shafiq who recently outrode his claim with his 151st winner Clip The Ticket on November 1, was at his very first win for Shaw, a trainer he seldom rides for - but that ice-breaker for the pairing could not have happened on a more auspicious occasion.

While it was Golden joy for Shafiq, Shaw and the Red Stable, it was heartbreak among the losing brigade all round.

First on the list would be Khoo who has again come so close and yet so far with Fastnet Dragon. The son of Fastnet Rock ran an agonisingly close third in the Emirates Singapore Derby in July and again second in the Group 1 Raffles Cup, and this third narrow defeat will rankle, but at least Khoo knows his gallant warrior can measure up to the best stayers and can seek revenge next year.

But the main letdown was Stepitup who failed in his bold bid to become the first horse to win the Singapore Triple Crown. Already winner of the first two Legs, the Panasonic Kranji Mile (1600m) and the Raffles Cup (1800m), the Hussonet six-year-old settled sweetly on the fence for Michael Rodd but found nothing in the home straight to finish a disappointing ninth, more than 10 lengths off Cooptado, presumably weighed down by his top impost of 58kg while giving weight all round.

Cooptado’s first win paycheque of around $700,000 clearly dwarfs his previous second and third place earnings of $130,000 at Kranji, though he did earn $400,000 in Argentina and Dubai, the highlight being the Grade 1 Gran Premio Nacional (2514) in Palermo two years ago in November 2013.