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Bahana lands El Dorado and goes for Gold
Michael Lee

Emerging stayer Bahana earned his ticket to the Dester Singapore Gold Cup after running his heart out to a hard-fought victory in the $150,000 Group 3 El Dorado Classic (2200m) on Sunday.


Jumping from barrier No 2, the Elusive City five-year-old travelled in the box-seat from the start before staking his claim upon straightening. The race was anything but a walk in the park for the $24 joint-favourite (with Cooptado) from that point onwards, though, with surprise guest Guru-Guru (Azhar Ismail) charging through for a strong challenge at the 300m while Gilt Complex (Corey Brown) was also chiming in on the outside.


Jockey Vlad Duric was not loafing with his usual strong whip riding and Bahana lunged at the line to finish locked together with Desmond Koh’s $132 smokie. With the naked eye, it looked like Guru-Guru might have just held on for a most incredible story, especially for his celebrated Malaysian champion jockey, but the photo print gave the verdict to Bahana by a short head.

Bahana (Vlad Duric, No 5) edges out Guru-Guru (Azhar Ismail) by a short head in an exciting finish to the
Group 3 El Dorado Classic.

Gilt Complex (Corey Brown) peaked on his run to finish third another three-quarter length away while the disappointment of the race was Cooptado (Olivier Placais) who faced the breeze four wide, improving from the rear in the backstraight to sit third before knocking up to run last. The winning time was 2min 14.19secs for the 2200m on the Long Course.


Gray said the El Dorado Classic was a race that sprang up only after Bahana started to cement his status as a potential Gold Cup contender.


“Nothing was actually planned for him. We just took it step by step, and today he’s won the El Dorado and he’s running in the Gold Cup next,” said Gray.


“I thought he was a bit out of the handicap today, stepping up to that level, but everything went good. He had a great run on the rails from barrier two.


“It’s great he won in a photo as we didn’t have much luck earlier with Bayu running third in Race 4. He was caught wide and he should have won, but this is much better.


“I told Untung (Joesoef) that this horse was a nice staying type with a speed sire out of a staying family.


“Whether he will win the Gold Cup or not, I don’t know, but I do know his preparation has been just perfect for such a race.”

The winning team celebrate their Group success: (from left): Owner Untung Joesoef, jockey Vlad Duric and trainer
Stephen Gray.

Gray also had a second Gold Cup contender who ran a cracker in the El Dorado, Squire Osbaldeston (Alan Munro), who squeezed his way between runners to finish fourth, a length off Gilt Complex. The Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) will be run on November 20.

“Squire ran very well, too, and Alan was very keen to keep the ride for the Gold Cup,” said the New Zealand trainer.

Duric joked he was glad he was a bad judge in tight finishes. He thought Twickenham (also prepared by Gray) was too late to peg Kirks Ryker back in the Group 3 Committee’s Prize (1600m), but the judge’s camera proved him wrong, and it was the same happy result on Sunday.

“I actually feel sorry for Azhar because I told him ‘you got me, good on ya mate’ after the winning post. I really thought he beat me but the photo proved me wrong,” said the Australian jockey.

“I’m a terrible judge in front, but it’s great Bahana won. He is owned by a great bunch of people and they deserve a Group win.

“Steve has done a great job spacing his run and that’s one of his strengths, and Cliff Brown does the same. He builds up their confidence and that’s why he’s done so well.”

Azhar, a multiple Malaysian champion jockey who has not captured a major Singapore race since 2012 when Pitstop won the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe, was rueing the one that just got away.

“He was in front, but just before the post, he changed his legs, and that cost me the race,” said the veteran jockey.

“What to do, that’s racing, but he ran really well and proved he can measure up at this level.”

With that sixth win, Bahana has now brought his stakes earnings close to the $320,000 mark for Joesoef’s Dago Stable.