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Lerner steers 'second choice' home
Michael Lee

The Raffles Cup-winning combination of Hideyuki Takaoka and Marc Lerner were at it again on Sunday when they cemented their solid partnership with another winner in the last race.

At the top of the straight in the $50,000 Class 4 event over the mile, their runner Matsuribayashi, however, looked mired in a serious traffic snarl.

Unless the Japanese-bred gelding sprouted wings that could help him leap over a wall of horses, he was heading towards a landlocked finish to the line.

Matsuribayashi (Marc Lerner) pins his ears back as he suddenly finds acres of land in front of him.

But Matsuribayashi ($53) literally put on wings on every foot when Pennsylvania (Shafrizal Saleh) suddenly rolled out at the 300m. As the Red Sea parted, it was the get-out-of-jail card that Lerner had already lost hope of drawing.

Boy Next Door (Michael Rodd) was then all but home and hosed for a Tan Kah Soon double (after Highgate saluted earlier) until Matsuribayashi came with his withering burst to put him to the sword.

The winning margin was half-a-length with Silent Prince (Juan Paul van der Merwe) third another 1 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 35.22secs for the 1600m on the Short Course.

Takaoka had a second runner in Golazo, who was actually better fancied, and handed to Louis-Philippe Beuzelin, but he could only run ninth.

The Japanese handler, who saddled Makanani to a narrow win with Lerner up in the Group 1 Raffles Cup two weeks ago, revealed that if he had left it to jockeys to pick their mounts, Lerner would have pulled the wrong rein.

“Marc actually wanted to ride Golazo. He thought Golazo had a better chance than Matsuribayashi,” said Takaoka, who contrary to Lerner, did win a race since the Raffles Cup, Jupiter Dragon with Beuzelin up on Friday night.

“I personally thought both had the same chance and I stuck to my bookings. Marc can’t complain now!

“The pace was just nice for both horses. I knew Golazo at the 300m couldn’t win as he looked one-paced but at the same time, Matsuribayashi was stuck behind horses.

“Then, the field just opened up, and he flew in – Marc got lucky, but that’s racing.”

Lerner has now steered the five-year-old son of Matsurida Gogh to two of his five wins. The owner, the Star Racing No 4 Stable, has collected around $160,000 in stakes earnings from the win paycheques bumped up by those brought up by the five minor placings.

“I was not that confident as I thought Golazo had a better chance, but Matsuribayashi proved me wrong,” said Lerner who was ringing up his 28th winner for the season to consolidate his fifth place on the log.

“He had a good run in transit but I thought we were in a tricky spot upon cornering. There was no way through.

“But when Jerome’s (Tan) grey horse (Pennsylvania) hung out, everything just opened up and he won a very good race.”