Bookmark and Share
KS Tan and Azhar win Super Bowl
Michael Lee

It’s a racing feat not within the compass of many, but the underrated Clarton Super showed he might well have what it took to figure among Kranji’s best after he won back-to-back Group races in between a freshen-up on Saturday.


A rather surprising winner of the Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m) at his last start in October, Clarton Super went for a well-earned break, only to make his much-awaited racing comeback at elite level again – the $200,000 Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1400m).


While the opposition was a touch easier in the EW Barker Trophy, a handicap race where he carried the luxury weight of 51.5kgs, Clarton Super was still not expected to come out at the thicker end of the prizemoney – but he did to hand his young trainer Tan Kah Soon his first Group silverware at only his third career win. 

Clarton Super (Azhar Ismail) collars Forever Young (Craig Grylls) to claim his second consecutive 
Group race win in the Fortune Bowl.

Four months on, the mindset “good-but-how-good” had not changed all that much. No doubt the Swift Alliance five-year-old was no slouch, but to test his mettle against the heavy-hitters like Singapore Horse of the Year Infantry and proven Group 1 winners Well Done and Forever Young, pundits were still not warming up to his chances, even when he drew an ideal gate in two.


The generous $64 odds (longer than his Barker odds of $51) summed up the cool reception. It was a different kettle of fish this time, and he probably still needed to blow away the cobwebs.


Instead, it was his 14 rivals – and his doubters – who were blown away by a classy performance that should once and for all earn him the respect and ovation he deserves.


Granted his handy barrier was like gold, but Clarton Super still needed to have the necessary prowess to overcome a Forever Young in full cry after he was given every conceivable chance in his favourite role of dictating terms for first-time partner Craig Grylls, and the two giants Infantry and Well Done, who even if they were resuming as well, were every bit the class acts they have always been inside the last 400m.


Clarton Super took a bit of time to take the gap once he was peeled out for his run, even laying in ever so slightly onto Mr Fantastic at the 300m, but once regular partner Azhar Ismail got stuck into him, he pinned his ears back, swished his tail, and it was all over. Forever Young fought back, but probably softened up by his early run from the outside gate, he eventually capitulated when Clarton Super poked his head in front before striding his way to a second Group win, with half-a-length separating the two at the wire.


Infantry (Ryan Curatolo) actually gave a fleeting impression he would make a victorious return when he issued his challenge at the point of the turn, but a bumping duel with Mr Fantastic (Vlad Duric) seemed to have taken the sting out of him.


Back since his brave fifth place in the Group 1 Longines Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) in November, the son of Tavistock was all locked and loaded, but the gun horse got jammed at a crucial stage. He still ran on courage to finish third another length away, half-a-length ahead of the surprise package Dee Dee D’Or (Simon Kok Wei Hoong, $236) who held the fast-finishing Well Done (Michael Rodd) off by a short head. The winning time was a handy 1min 21.6secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.

Chinese New Year luck to the trio: (from left) owner Mr Tang Kim Chwee, trainer Tan Kah Soon and
jockey Azhar Ismail.

Tan said that his confidence grew exponentially when Clarton Super was seen coasting within striking distance at the home turn.


“He’s a horse who is hard to beat when he is four lengths off the leader coming to the home turn,” said the Penang-born son of ex-trainer Dr Tan Swee Hock and Godolphin-trained handler.


“He’s proven today he can measure up to the better horses. I had the Kranji Mile in mind for him but he had to run well today, but we have to see how he pulls up first.”


The Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) on May 20 was this week elevated to invitational status and also had its prizemoney bumped up from $1 million to $1.5 million, making it the richest race on the Singapore racing calendar.


“I’m very happy he won today and I have to thank the owner (Pentagon Stable) for being a great supporter of mine from Day 1, my dad, and a big thanks to the stable staff as well,” he continued.


“The horse had a good break after the EW Barker, and I was happy where he was at. He’s been working well, I couldn’t fault him.


“I was hoping for a bit of rain, and it still hasn’t come (as the sky above rumbled menacingly). I was also worried about him racing first-up and running against top guns like Infantry and Well Done, but he’s shown today he can measure up to them.”


Already the owner of a rich and illustrious riding resume, Azhar was legitimately excited he was still able to throw his leg aboard such a classy horse at the so-called twilight of his career. The 54-year-old multiple-Malaysian champion jockey was in an astrological mood as his star shone brightly yet again on Saturday.


“This horse and I were meant to be together,” said Azhar who has ridden Clarton Super at all his starts bar one (when ridden by his nephew Amirul Ismadi).


“This is my ninth time riding him and we’ve had five wins together. We won the EW Barker and we’ve won a Group race again.


“He was drawn good and I intended to go with the pace. He travelled very well and in the straight, he gave a nice burst as expected.


“The Kranji Mile is his next target. The 1600m is even better for him.”


Infantry, last year’s winner of the race (when then slated as the first Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown Series) is likely to be on the starting grid, too. According to Curatolo, Alwin Tan’s champion galloper needed the run in the Fortune Bowl.


“I had him in a good position, he had no excuse. But he was probably not 100% fit,” said the French jockey.


“The 1400m was too short for him even if it was an ideal distance first-up. His condition will improve from that run for sure.”


Another hoop who was definitely looking forward to the next outings from his Fortune Bowl mount was Grylls, as he jumped off praising Forever Young’s fighting second after overcoming the outermost alley in 15.


“We came so close, he ran super. He will get the mile easy,” said the Kiwi jockey.


“He jumped really fast and came across really well to lead. Once in front, he got a breather midrace and kicked on in the straight, but the winner was too good on the day.”