It was billed as a two-horse war, but when War Affair was stunningly pulled out of Sunday’s Group 3 $200,000 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) through injury, Spalato predictably turned it into a one-horse race.
Sent out at prohibitive odds of $5.30, the Elusive City six-year-old was indeed bombproof from the moment he was sent on his way in the small six-horse field, turning the race into a procession as he took up the running with minimal fuss – dictating terms like he was in his own race and the remaining five horses in another
Regular partner Manoel Nunes did let Spalato float away to a five-length break coming off the back, but the Brazilian rider soon reined his natural cruising speed in as they approached the home turn with a three-length cushion while the chasing pack were already under the pump.
But Spalato probably felt nary a squeak from them as he coasted clear with Nunes not flinching a muscle by the 300m mark, just a few subtle slips of the reins to remind him he was after all in a Group 3 race.
Glancing at the giant screen a couple of times just to make sure there was no last-minute surprise, Nunes sat up early as he switched off the engine 50m out to allow Spalato to almost crank down to a standstill in a race that had looked more like a barrier trial than anything else, allowing Darci Charmer (Brad Parnham) to close in late to grab second place 1 ½ lengths away with Gold Rutile (Mario Esposito) third another 1 ¼ lengths away.
The winning time was 1min 22.79secs for the 1400m on the Short Course.
While speculation had been rife where to after the Jumbo Jet Trophy given he had been slated to join Super One on a Melbourne-bound flight later in the month, trainer John O’Hara was still not giving away much, happy in the knowledge that whatever lies ahead, that latest exhibition gallop would put him in good stead.
“Of course it was a pity for everybody we didn’t get to see him race against War Affair, but there was still a race to be won and he’s done exactly that,” said the Singaporean handler.
“I left it to Manoel to ride the race the way he wanted as he knows the horse inside out and he didn’t need to be tied down to any instructions in such a race. He rode him perfectly, absolutely nothing to complain about.
“Hopefully he will go to the Kranji Mile next, but I will leave it to (owner) Graham (Mackie) to make the decision.”
The Group 1 Panasonic Kranji Mile (1600m) is the first Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series and will take place on October 4.
Mackie, the New Zealand owner who was on hand with his wife Trish Dunell to watch Spalato race, was just as non-committal about his precious charge’s future endeavours, even after the breath-taking performance.
“There are some good races here in Singapore and there are some good races in Australia, too. We’ll let you know as soon as possible which way he’s going,” said Mackie.
One person who is not too worried about the forked road dilemma compared to the trainer and owners, was obviously Nunes, happy to tag along wherever Spalato goes.
Nunes, however, did let in he was not without some anxious moments even though the sizzling run looked like an armchair ride any jockey would have filled with the same outcome.
“I think he was too fresh, I’m not sure. Look at my hands, they’re all red,” said Nunes as he showed his chafed palms from holding back the awesome power under the 519-kilo galloping machine.
“When I took him to the front he was a bit keen, he didn’t want to settle at all and grabbed the bit. As I didn’t want to fight him, I had no choice but to put my hands down just to let him roll along coming down the back.
“But once he came back underneath me, he ran quite relaxed. All I wanted was to look after him as he’s the best horse in the race.
“I just wished he would settle better for me, but it didn’t matter today as he was just too good. I eased down on him once I knew he had the race won.
“I’m sorry War Affair was not in the race as we’ve all waited for that race for a long time. No doubt 1400m suited Spalato better but I respect War Affair a lot as he’s also a very good horse.
“Hopefully we’ll meet him one day.”
With that eighth win from 10 runs (only two defeats came in Hong Kong last year), Spalato has taken his earnings close to the $1.3 million mark for the Mackies.