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Woodworth's cool ride sees Elite Invincible home
Michael Lee

Back-in-the-spotlight jockey Benny Woodworth is showing no signs of slowing down after he added an eighth winner to his bulging tally thanks to a pick-up ride aboard Elite Invincible on Sunday.


Regarded as more of a journeyman in recent years, the Malaysian rider has surprisingly been enjoying a second lease of life, which noticeably began last year, highlighted by his two Group lucky breaks with Forever Young, among others.


If there were any doubters about this renaissance of sorts, Woodworth was quick to show his 2017 success was no flash in the pan. 

Elite Invincible (Benny Woodworth) keeps finding as he takes out the Kranji Stakes A race.

No doubt, he was only filling in for the injured Glen Boss aboard Elite Invincible in the $125,000 Kranji Stakes A race over 1600m, presumably more by default given the current shortage of jockeys (either injured, sick or suspended), but the coolness he exuded aboard the $14 favourite will certainly put him in good stead for a wider portfolio of bookings.


Gone are the days when a Woodworth win would be mainly for the trainer who has stood by him through thick and thin, Desmond Koh. This year alone, only one (Million Round) of his eight wins came for the Singaporean handler with the rest evenly spread between Daniel Meagher, Mok Zhan Lun and Kuah Cheng Tee.


Reigning Singapore champion trainer Mark Walker might have booked Woodworth only as a substitute, but he will certainly be pleased with the choice his assistant Gus Clutterbuck came up with when he watches the TV replay (he is currently in New Zealand) of his handling of Elite Invincible.


One of the best away from an awkward gate, the Irish-bred four-year-old by Archarcharch could not find the outright lead with Spanish Bay (Saifudin Ismail) kicking up on the inside.


But the clock in Woodworth’s head told him he could afford to ask for an extra length or he might get caught in no man’s land the entire trip. A slight nudge came at the half-mile, and the favourite was well on his way as he settled alone on the plastic – and duly steadied up the ship.


It was not a muddling-run tempo, but it was clear that half of the field made up of noted swoopers like Nova Strike (Troy See), Mr Spielberg (Craig Grylls), Majestic Moments (Nooresh Juglall), Chairman (Matthew Kellady) and Certainly (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) would have their work cut out.


The chase was on with Spanish Bay and Robin Hood (Mohd Zaki) creeping up slowly but surely, while the backmarkers were also getting a wriggle on, but once Woodworth threw out the anchors upon straightening, it was game over.


Any queries about any petrol left in Elite Invincible’s tank after his early efforts were answered in no uncertain terms as he put daylight on his rivals in a jiffy.


Spanish Bay and Robin Hood were paddling and were soon gone. Majestic Moments and Mighty Kenny (Krisna Thangamani) stepped up to the plate, but were chasing shadows.


The Woodworth and Elite Invincible one-day-special had already stolen a march that proved unredeemable.


Mr Spielberg (Craig Grylls) stormed home from near last to run second 1 ¼ lengths away with Mighty Kenny in third place separated by a similar margin. The winning time was 1min 34.76secs for the 1600m on the Short Course.


“I rode him like he was the best horse in the race even if I’ve never ridden him before,” said Woodworth.


“At his last start, he showed he had improved a lot. The pace was not on and I decided to go forward or I would be caught three wide.


“Once I gave him a squeeze at the top of the straight, he kicked on and won a nice race.”


Clutterbuck said Elite Invincible was a horse heading for bigger and better things if the way he put his rivals to the sword was anything to go by.


“He’s a lovely horse. The further he goes, the better he will get,” said the New Zealander.


“He is a horse who is improving all the time. He has really acclimatised very well as time goes on.


“It was bad luck for Glen, good luck for Benny. He summed it well and rated him nicely.”


With Elite Invincible being a four-year-old, it stood to reason connections might have locked in a lofty target in July, but Clutterbuck preferred to be non-committal.


“I’ll leave it to Mark. It’s up to him what he does from now on,” said Clutterbuck when asked if the Singapore Derby was an option seriously being considered for the Elite Performance Stable-owned galloper.


The Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby (1800m) is the third Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge and will be staged on July 22.