Bookmark and Share
Excalibur leads Elite 1-2 in Committee's Prize
Michael Lee

An epic battle between the two “Elite” horses in Sunday’s $200,000 Group 3 Committee’s Prize (1600m) saw Elite Excalibur come up trumps for a well-deserved first feature win feather to his cap.


Billed as a star-studded contest worthy of a Group 1 label all week long, the handicap event had most of its 16 runners still in with a shot at the thicker end of the prizemoney when they spread across the track in the last two-furlong dash to the line on the Short Course.


All eyes turned to $18 favourite Infantry (Glen Boss) as he swept to the lead with 300m to go, looking full of running and seemingly on the cusp of obliterating his rivals in a matter of strides, but it soon became evident the winner would have to come from elsewhere when the son of Tavistock hit a brickwall. 

Elite Excalibur (Michael Rodd) storms home to post a brilliant win in the Committee's Prize.

That was when the two Elite Performance Stable-owned gallopers, Elite Exacilbur (Michael Rodd) and Elite Invincible (Benny Woodworth) emerged as the main protagonists as they popped out of the woodwork almost simultaneously to attack the line for the top prize.


On the outside, the Cliff Brown-trained Elite Excalibur ($26) always seemed to have the wood on the Mark Walker-trained Elite Invincible ($29), but with the latter still hunting up gamely on the inside, Elite Excalibur, a five-year-old by Fastnet Rock, had to maintain the edge all the way to the line, in the end preserving his slender advantage from his gallant stablemate by a neck.


At the rear for most of the mile journey, Well Done (Vlad Duric) was ridden for luck as he tried to cut corners by staying on the rails in the hope gaps would open up. They did but when he went through, the two Elite horses had already gone full throttle, but the 2016 Emirates Derby-Patron’s Bowl winner signalled his return to his best form with a solid third place another 1 ¼ lengths away.


Infantry was again gallant in defeat even if there was an increasing impression the 2017 Singapore Horse of the Year might have to toil a little to regain his No 1 mantle from now on. Alwin Tan's stable star did give his fans plenty to cheer about when he swept to the front 300m out, but he just could not pull away when it mattered.


If there were other notes of merit to be handed out, the next three to queue up after the quartet, the Lee Freedman duo of Mr Spielberg (Azhar Ismail) and Circuit Land (Craig Grylls), and Twickenham (Wong Chin Chuen) were more than worthy recipients.


Mr Spielberg, the dyed-in-the-wool stayer in the 16-horse field, came from the clouds to secure fifth spot less than four lengths off the winner. 


Former Hong Kong galloper Circuit Land was a query first-up in a Group event, but exceeded expectations with a sixth place.


As for Twickenham, he may have failed to add a third successive Committee’s Prize notch above his barn door, but the bold frontrunner did not go down without a fight. The Stephen Gray-trained galloper was still showing plenty of ticker when he led the field into the home straight, but was in the end swamped by much higher-rated horses in one of the strongest Committee’s Prizes seen since its inception in 2000.


But all honours to the winner, who has not been sighted since his smack-up third to his ill-fated stablemate Gilt Complex in last November’s Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2200m).


Unfortunately, Brown’s champion stayer had to be put down in Dubai last Saturday week after he suffered a catastrophic injury to his hind pastern at the last of his three starts in Meydan. 

Winning connections celebrate Elite Excalibur's first triumph in a feature race: (from left) owner
Mr Aloysius Chew, trainer Cliff Brown and jockey Michael Rodd.

The tragic loss was hard to cop for the whole team, but such are the ups and downs of racing that Elite Excalibur’s sterling win on Sunday has certainly gone a long way in easing the pain.


“We were flattened when we lost Gilt Complex last week. It was a great disappointment for all of us,” said Brown.


“He was such a beautiful horse and it was heart-breaking to lose him, but today, it was great to see Elite Excalibur win a first feature race because he fully deserved it.


“My staff has done a great job with him. Three to four weeks ago, I wasn’t happy with him, but I changed a few things around, added winkers on him.


“He trialled a bit flat the other day, but he’s also a bit older. He was unlucky in the Gold Cup when he was beaten a half head.”


Rodd, who was aboard Gilt Complex in the Singapore Gold Cup, but had ridden Elite Excalibur to his previous only two Kranji wins (1400m), was marvelling at Brown’s Midas touch when it comes to getting his horses ready, especially first-up in a big race.

“It’s a great performance from him to win a big race over the mile first-up. I always thought he could do it as he goes really well fresh,” said the Australian jockey.


“I’ve learned a lot by watching Cliff and how he manages to get these horses ready for such races. It just blows me away.


“Today, I had the perfect run on Glen Boss’s back (Infantry). At the 1200m, I saw him in front and I knew he would make all the right decisions, so all I had to do was just stay on his back.


“My horse doesn’t have the greatest turn of foot, but when I clicked him up, he just gets on with the job.


“It’s great for Aloysius (Chew) and the owners. There are a lot of them and we need more guys like them in racing.”


After investing quite substantially in Singapore racing since 2016, the Elite Performance Stable would be delighted they were finally securing their first ‘black type’ win, not to mention the extra kick of etching the quinella on the honour roll for good measure.


With that third win under the belt, Elite Excalibur (who raced as River Wild for Coolmore and Gai Waterhouse in Sydney) has amassed more than $625,000 in local stakes earnings for his owners.


Woodworth for one could not wait for the runner-up, the Irish-bred Elite Invincible’s next few runs leading up towards a target in which Elite Excalibur could only finish seventh to Infantry last year, the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby (2000m), the third Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge. The glamour race will for the first time be run over 1800m this year on July 15.


“He had every chance, but no excuse, he found one better,” said the Malaysian jockey.


“He’s a very good horse and he will be a strong chance in the Derby.”