Knight’s Command gives Pins his 7th Stakes Winner this Season

Trainer Bruce Marsh’s faith in his apprentice jockey Zuriman Zulkifli was repaid manifold when Knight’s Command sprang an upset win to become Pins’ 7th individual stakes winner this season in last nights $150,000 Group 3 Admiralty Classic Stakes (1600m).

The Kelantan-born rider has been the partner of the Pins six-year-old at his last three outings for two wins in the last two. Marsh could have chosen a more experienced senior rider than the four-pound claimer for the Sunday assignment, especially as rider allowances are not permitted in such feature races, but decided to stick with Zuriman.

It turned out to be a gamble well worth taking as Zuriman coped with the pressure placed on his young shoulders with great aplomb to turn in the ride of his life with a first Group success finally added to his resume.

With all the pre-race hype centred around Slew Of Lode (Barend Vorster) and the undefeated Cordoba (Alan Munro), horses like Knight’s Command had been a little forgotten, last two successive wins over the mile nothwithstanding.

Zuriman went into the race with no pressure, just focused on riding his race on a horse he knew inside out, and hopefully live up to his boss’s and the connections, the TITS & LFS Stable’s trust.

Slew Of Lode, who had scored his last four wins with jockey John Powell up and travelling in a handy spot, found himself in an unusual role when he railed through to wrest the lead from stablemate Cannon Hill (Powell) after 300m.

Following a good jump, Knight’s Command, who normally drifts back, sat more forward than normal as the Patrick Shaw pair throttled down the race to a crawl, creeping up right on their heels from the 800m before electing to camp on the outside of even-money favourite Slew Of Lode. The slow tempo was also not to the liking of Cordoba who was seen pulling double under Munro.

Turning for home, the moment Vorster popped the question to Slew Of Lode, it soon became evident his customary turn of foot had gone amiss. On the other hand, Knight’s Command was finding plenty as he shot past Slew Of Lode with Zuriman riding for dear life, while another outsider Speedy Cat (Lisa Allpress) was also shaping up as an unlikely challenger for the top prize.

But the day belonged to Knight’s Command who threw everything into the battle to reach home with three-quarter-length to spare from Speedy Cat, to the sheer delight of an exuberant Zuriman, whose pocket was, however, lightened up of $500 for raising his arm in a celebratory gesture before the winning post.

Slew Of Lode, probably not used to be ridden that way, stuck on well for third another three-quarter-length away. The winning time was 1min 36.07secs for the 1600m on the Long Course.

“This is my first Group win and this is the moment I’ve waited all my life. I would like to thank my boss and the owners for keeping me on that horse in a big race,” said Zuriman.

“This horse has improved so much in his last three runs. I’ve worked out the handicaps and even though Slew Of Lode and Cordoba were hard to beat, I thought he had a chance.

“I actually didn’t want to go forward, but the pace was so slow that he started to pull and I had no choice to let him roll forward.

“When he pulls he tends to be keen and lug out and I didn’t want that to happen. In the straight, I just let him go and he gave a very nice kick.

“As the winning post came up, I was getting more excited. I couldn’t hold back and raised the whip, and I think that will cost me $500, but I was so happy!”

Sharing his young rookie’s elation was Marsh, but in a more measured fashion as the Singapore Derby-winning trainer was not at his first big-race win at Kranji.

“We always had big hopes for this horse as he’s well-bred and we always knew he had ability. We actually bought him with the Derby in mind,” said the Kiwi horseman.

“But he’s had a lot of problems with his legs and back, and I think we left him as a colt too long, which didn’t help.

“He’s really come on this prep, but he’s always had this bad habit of hanging out, especially today with the slow pace. I think he was on the wrong leg, but once Zuriman got him balanced up, he kicked very strongly.

“I’m very happy for Zuriman. I kept him on because he knows the horse so well and I’m thankful to the owners for letting him ride the horse. Zuriman really deserves a big race success.”

Marsh said he would just potter around with Knight’s Command but has already set designs on a long-term plan.

“I think he could be a Singapore Gold Cup horse in the long run,” said Marsh.

The Group 1 Longines Singapore Gold Cup is the country’s premier handicap race run over 2200m on November 16.

With that fourth win from 21 starts, Knight’s Command has now brought up his stakes earnings past the $240,000 for his connections. He was the winner of only NZ$22,350 from his three wins in New Zealand.

Though a shade dejected, trainer David Hill said he knew Cordoba (fifth) was in dire straits the moment they stacked up the speed upfront.

“He started to throw his head up and was way too keen. He didn’t get the fast pace that he needs,” said the British trainer.

“Anyway he needs longer as he was still running on towards the end. He is still on course for the Derby.”

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