What do Mortal Engine and South Of The River have in common, besides being prepared by the same trainer to win on Saturday?
Firstly, the Michael Clements-trained pair were also well-beaten favourites in their last start.
Then they won their trials for their assignments and followed up by winning in similar fashion – leading all the way to score emphatically.
South Of The River finished a 71/4-length ninth first-up as the $14 favourite on Nov 14, but improved to win by a runway seven lengths in the $20,000 Open Maiden event over the Polytrack 1,000m.
Mortal Engine, a debut winner on Jan 3 last year, flopped in his second start on Nov 20 as the $10 favourite. He, too, finished ninth.
He had a long break between runs because he became “unsound” after the first race. He was given a rest, during which he had surgery “to clean up a knee”.
He also won his trial impressively, two days after South of The River clinched his on Dec 28, before greeting the judge again.
Ridden by three-time Singapore champion Manoel Nunes, the Tivic Stable-owned four-year-old jumped from the second-widest barrier and secured a soft lead.
He then made it pillar to post to win by 13/4 lengths in the $50,000 Class 4 race over the Poly 1,100m in 1:04.71.
That reboot after the long break had not only blown away the cobwebs, but it also rekindled his winning flair.
His victory suggests better things to come, the same for South Of The River.
Let us retrace how his second success from just three starts unfolded.
With Nunes wearing the famous red-and-black chevron silks of Tivic Stable, which had earlier won with the Tim Fitzsimmons-trained newcomer Dancing Light, Mortal Engine charged to the lead from Gate 11 in the field of 12.
Shooting right up the rails, Seson – with South Of The River’s jockey Oscar Chavez astride – momentarily shaped as the beneficiary when Mortal Engine rolled off.
But Mortal Engine was only wobbling out for a fraction of a second, as he was put through the right gait.
Seson tried in vain to get on level terms. In the end, he had to settle for third place. Second was Dr Kardo (Saifudin Ismail).
Clements revealed that when Mortal Engine resumed from his long break for his November comeback, he was short of a trial.
“He got one but we couldn’t get another one for him,” said the Zimbabwe-born Singaporean, who also saddled The Shadow to take the opening event.
“He was a bit underdone at his first-up run as a result. We were able to get more work into him after that and he was spot-on today.
“He ran up to expectations. I’m happy I was able to get him to win again.
“This horse can handle both surfaces. When he goes up in class, then we’ll have a better idea what he prefers.”
Clements admitted the wide alley was of some concern when the field came out on Wednesday. But, after consulting Nunes, they decided to put the gelding’s natural gate speed to good use.
“I discussed with Manoel about the bad barrier during the week. As he’s a horse who likes to go forward, there was no other choice in my mind than to use him up early,” he said.
“We took our chances. He was able to take a breather and, fortunately, it paid off.”
With that second win from three starts, Mortal Engine has amassed about $67,000 in prize money for Tivic Stable.
Nunes was very enthusiastic about Mortal Engine, as he had spent a lot of time with not just him after he returned from his long break at the end of last year.
But he was just as ecstatic about his three Fitzsimmons-trained winners – Dancing Light, Super Atas and Lucky Jinsha.
The fantastic four-timer has sent a strong warning to his rivals this year. But the Brazilian rider remains grounded.
Above all, he was grateful for the opportunities afforded to him, especially after the uncertainty of his prolonged downtime.
“I’m so happy to start the season with four winners. I had five seconds, too,” he said.“It could have been better, but I can’t complain and can’t be too greedy, anyway.
“I’m very happy with the way things have gone so far, considering I had a break for two years (stranded due to Covid-19 restrictions) in Brazil, and only rode for one month in November.
“And then, just when I was getting fit, we stopped again in December (for the break). But, to be honest, I rode every day except Sunday, which was my only day off.
“Fitness-wise, it’s not the same as riding in races, but it still helped me get fitter, especially at the barrier trials.
“Now that I have ridden at my first raceday, my fitness can only improve from now on.
“In saying this, I’m very grateful for the support from trainers and owners. Thanks to them, I get a lot of rides and, without them, all of these would not be possible.”