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First Group win for Ben Thompson, quinella for Brown in EW Barker
Michael Lee

Trainer Cliff Brown quinellaed the $500,000 Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m) with Mister Yeoh and Zac Kasa while visiting Melbourne jockey Ben Thompson landed his first Group win at his very first Singapore visit on Friday night.

Before the race, the Australian handler could not quite split the four-year-old duo, who were both handicapped at the minimum weight of 50kgs in the handicap feature - and at the wire, he probably wished neither could the judge.


The much-anticipated stoush between the two leading picks – there was nothing between the two Browns on the trading floor until Zac Kasa just drifted into $15 favouritism at the off with Mister Yeoh next on $17 – turned into the battle royale all racing pundits had been hoping for all week. 

Visiting Melbourne jockey Ben Thompson claims his first win in Singapore when Mister Yeoh beats
stablemate Zac Kasa (Glen Boss) in the EW Barker Trophy.

Under specially-hired lightweight jockey Thompson’s hard riding, Mister Yeoh had the wood on race-leader Zac Kasa early in the straight, but Brown’s grey flash is not one to be outgunned so easily.


With first-time partner Glen Boss riding like a man possessed, the son of Reset fought his way back into the race on the rails, but Mister Yeoh was not giving an inch either. The pair toughed it out tooth and nail all the way to the line, with Mister Yeoh eventually edging clear to beat his stable companion by half-a-length.


Last year’s EW Barker Trophy winner Clarton Super (Azhar Ismail) bravely tried to whittle down the margin on the two Browns, but the pull in weights was against him this time around. Set as the topweight on 58kgs, the Swift Alliance six-year-old was giving the winner as much as eight kilos whereas it was the other way round last year when he carried only 51.5kgs.


The eye-catching performance not many had seen coming hailed from Nova Strike (Noh Senari, $129) who stormed home from last to snatch fourth place from another longshot, Kingsman (Saifudin Ismail, $207) by a neck. The winning time was 1min 21.38secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.

A virtual unknown to Kranji racegoers before Friday – except maybe for the hardcore racing fans who have more than the occasional flutter on Australian racing - Thompson, who is the son of a champion greyhound trainer in Melbourne, was standing tall at the winner’s rostrum at a place he had never ridden at, let alone thought of riding at just a few weeks ago.


The 21-year-old could not believe that nine months ago, he just outrode his metropolitan claim in Australia, and here he was landing a first Group success under other skies - and at the expense of an Australian Hall of Fame jockey who won three Melbourne Cups when he was still in school shorts and probably watching him in awe on TV.


But Thompson was clearly not starry-eyed when he showed nerves of steel to outmuscle Boss in that titanic battle to the line and come out on top.

Winning connections celebrate Mister Yeoh's second Group 2 win: (from left) trainer Cliff Brown, jockey
Ben Thompson and owner Nick Turnbull.

“I’m pinching myself. I’d like to thank Cliff Brown, (assistant-trainer) Tim (Fitzsimmons) and Michael Rodd for all their help since I’ve been here,” said Thompson who had his father Jason on hand at Kranji.


“I’m also glad my dad is here tonight as it’s so rare for him to get away. Big thanks to my mum, my sister and of course my partner, Steph (Thornton, jockey).


“I’m glad I’ve made the most of the opportunity. I’ve been riding for five and a half years, I just came out of my apprenticeship, it’s been a whirlwind journey.


“The race itself worked out perfectly. The plan was actually to be a pair further back, but he started so well that I just kept him rolling.


“The stablemate was the horse to follow and he gave us a good cart into the race. At the top of the straight, I knew my horse would be hard to beat.


“The other horse came back, but that’s because I think my horse just gets the 1400m, but he was well prepared and got the job done in the end.”

Thompson is also licensed to ride at the Dester Singapore Gold Cup meeting on Sunday, but has no ride in the Group 1 race over 2000m after Brown’s Dicton could not make it into the final field.

Mister Yeoh was handing big-race specialist Brown his fifth silverware for the year – and his 24th overall since the Australian moved from Narbethong, Victoria to Singapore in 2008. To tick the forecast with Zac Kasa in a race jacked up to half-a-million this year had the usually poker-faced handler smiling a little more widely this time.


“I don’t mind whichever way the two finished. Both are decent horses,” said Brown.


“The prizemoney is fantastic and it’s a real privilege to be racing here in Singapore.


“Zac ran very well, he does everything so easy. He should have been beaten last start.


“They were both nice three-year-olds and have continued to progress. What do we do next, I’m not sure.


“Mister Yeoh belongs to a couple of great mates, including Nick Turnbull, who raced Fitzroy with me before.


“They’ll have a great night tonight, that’s for sure.”


Mister Yeoh might have only eight starts under the belt at Kranji, but the son of Wanted has already won four races, including two at Group 2 level, the first coming in the second Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, the Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) in April.

Another two placings from eight outings have helped raise his stakes earnings past the $650,000 mark for the Mister Yeoh Stable.