Michael Lee 13/01/2017
Talented galloper Skywalk gave connections and his legion of backers a huge fright inside the concluding stages of the $80,000 Open Benchmark 74 race over 1200m, but recovered in time to get the job done in the end.
The Battle Paint three-year-old, who was resuming since his last-start win in a Novice race over 1200m last November, looked to have the race all stitched up when he loomed up from a handy spot in the home straight, seemingly on the cusp of pegging back all the horses in front of him.
But as they drew on level terms with Shadow Of War (Olivier Placais) at the 200m, his rider Wong Chin Chuen gave a whack with the left hand, but suddenly lost his whip and more scarily, also his balance, swinging awkwardly off the other side of the saddle, momentarily looking like he would hit the deck.
Wong was, however, able to stay in the irons and after quickly recomposing himself, rode the odds-on favourite ($9), hands and heels with renewed vigour, eventually denying $389 longshot Sand Bank (Chan Wei Sheng) of a big upset by a neck.
Guilty Pleasures (Matthew Kellady) also floated around as a winning chance on the outside but had to settle for third spot another half-a-length away, one length ahead of stablemate Big Man (John Powell). The winning time was 1min 10.3secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.
Upon dismounting, Wong explained his saddle did not slip but he just lost his balance.
“The horse jumped out well and was a little keen early. There was then a nice tempo to the race and he travelled well underneath me,” said the 2016 champion apprentice jockey.
“In the straight, I went in search of daylight, and the horse just knows what to do.
“At the 200m, I shifted my whip to the left but I lost my balance after one hit. I then just pushed him to the line and he ran on very well.”
Peters admitted to having his heart in his mouth when it looked like Wong would part company with the China Horse Club-owned gelding close home.
“I thought the saddle slipped from where I saw the race. Luckily, CC was able to regain his balance and they did a good job in the end,” said the second-year trainer who was registering his first win for the new season.
“He’s a horse who will never win by five lengths. He just does enough.
“There are still a few things to work out with him. He is just winning on raw ability at the moment.
“He’s still a big baby; he just gawks a bit and he lugs in a little, but I have to say he relaxed a bit better tonight, he switched off better.
“I’ll see how he pulls up, but I think I’ll put him over 1400m next before the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge races come up.”
Skywalk was at his third win from six starts for prizemoney closing in on the $180,000 mark for the China Horse Club.