Lim’s Kosciuszko racing away to another Group 1 silverware must have felt like deja vu to Kranji racegoers on Saturday.
But, whichever way you slice it, the script could not have been written any differently.
Not only was the reigning Singapore Horse of the Year again stamping himself as the country’s best horse by a long chalk with a sixth Group 1 win but, remarkably, he was also claiming a second Raffles Cup in the same year, six months apart.
The offbeat rerun of the mile classic came as a result of a 2023 slot in March, instead of 2022, due to the racing calendar reshuffle that season when Covid-19 measures were still in force.
Saturday’s $300,000 feature was therefore the actual renewal into the 2023 course proper, and was also reinstated as the first leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series.
Regardless of timeline, Lim’s Kosciuszko’s second triumph was handing the Meagher family a unique record – father and son winning three Raffles Cups apiece.
With Daniel Meagher annexing his first with Lim’s Lightning in 2021, Lim’s Kosciuszko’s rare double brought up a treble that his father and former mentor John had already achieved with Mayo’s Music (2004), Lim’s Classic (2006) and Lim’s Objective (2007).
The younger Meagher, who is well known for his emotional post-race speeches, choked back tears as the feat dawned on him.
“To win it three times, and dad won it three times, it’s very emotional. I’m very proud I can equal dad’s record,” he said.
Statistics, anecdote and waterworks aside, Meagher was, above all, relieved his champion galloper, who is named after Australia’s highest peak, had passed another test with flying colours.
Arguably, the mounting pressure became more unbearable towards the second half of his current tally of 16 wins, with each big-race test like another mountain to climb.
But while Meagher will probably never learn to relax before each run, the growing confidence in “Kosi” helps him cope better.
“Kosi is expected to win every time. Of course, there is a lot of pressure going into each race he runs in, and today was no different,” said the Australian, who was notching his 11th Group 1 win.
“He’s actually very easy to train, but that probably makes it even more stressful because he’s our best horse, anything can go wrong.
“I wasn’t that concerned about the draw (11), but it’s still a question mark because we don’t know where he would be in the race.
“But I wasn’t worried because I have so much confidence in CC (Wong Chin Chuen).
“He rides him every day, he knows exactly what we’ve done with the horse. He gave him another 10-out-of-10 ride.”
If the Malaysian jockey felt any pressure from the almost blind faith Meagher has in him, it did not show in his unflappable handling of a horse he has now guided to seven wins from eight rides, including five at Group 1 level.
The chemistry between horse and man is almost telepathic.
At the 350m – when Lim’s Kosciuszko is usually well clear – he was still behind a faltering Katak (Simon Kok), who was inclined to veer towards the grandstand.
Almost anticipating the awkward spot the $6 favourite could find himself in, Wong deftly nudged him out towards daylight.
The Kermadec six-year-old then let down with his customary burst, leaving in his wake the familiar sight of rivals chasing shadows.
First-time challenger Invincible Tycoon (Manoel Nunes), who is another Lim’s Stable ward, but under Steven Burridge, momentarily showed some cheek when he snuck up from underneath.
But he had to settle for second place, 1¼ lengths behind, with stablemate Mr Malek (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) a gallant third, another neck away. The time was a slick 1min 33.81sec for the mile on the short course, 0.2sec outside Super Ninetyseven’s 10-year-old record.
“This horse knows what to do. When we come to the top of the straight and he finds daylight, he knows where to go,” said Wong, who was at his sixth Group 1 win, with the first aboard Meagher’s original champion Lim’s Lightning in the 2021 Kranji Mile.
“Today, I rode him more patiently because when he hits the front too soon, he pricks his ears up.”
Fans will have to wait for three weeks before seeing Lim’s Kosciuszko again. On Oct 14, he will contest the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1,800m).
But Meagher may give the last leg, the Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup (2,000m) on Nov 11 a wide berth – and pack his bags instead.
“I’d rather skip the Gold Cup and try Hong Kong again,” he said.
In 2022, Lim’s Kosciuszko eschewed both the QEII Cup and Singapore Gold Cup in favour of the Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) at Sha Tin in December. He was invited, but ran last.
“I’ve learned from my mistakes and I will do things differently this time,” said Meagher.
“I was thinking too much into the training.”
Saturday’s Singapore Results: results24.pdf