Plenty of Excuse if Room had not come in time

Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Trainer Hideyuki Takaoka had a good reason to forgive jockey Alan Munro for jumping off Room For Excuse for the first time: The English rider still had a big say in getting the entire back in the winner’s circle on Sunday.

After the lightly-raced son of No Excuse Needed scored a narrow win, his first in more than a year, Takaoka feigned indignation Munro had “snubbed” them in favour of the Cliff Brown-trained Poseidon in the $80,000 Magnanimity Stakes, a Class 3 race over 1400m.

But the amiable trainer was the perfect example of the gracious behaviour the race is named after when he broke into a big smile to reveal that Munro was the one who suggested Room For Excuse was stepped up in distance.

The New Zealand-bred five-year-old only made his comeback in almost a year in August after undergoing chip knee surgery in January with the last of his two wins (both over 1200m) coming on September 19 last year.

Well beaten at his last run in a 1200m race, the Big Valley Stable galloper was not given much of a chance ($113) to turn his form around on Sunday, but Munro had been spot-on.

“Before the race, I thought the draw (10) would be against him. I thought there was no way he could win, and besides he didn’t show anything special in his work,” said Takaoka.

“But I went with Alan’s suggestion and I was hoping he would be right. He told me after his last run that he was not a sprinter, not a 1200m horse and needed more ground.

“I listened to him as I think Alan is a great judge. But he himself decided to ride the other horse and worse, that horse was scratched!

“He has ridden the horse all the time, except for today, and I’m sad for him, but thanks to him, the horse won again.”

While the Japanese trainer said Munro deserved the kudos despite pulling the wrong rein, the horse himself probably owed his return to winning ways to a very persuasive ride from the pilot who was actually performing the steering duties in the saddle, apprentice jockey A’Isisuhairi Kasim.

Settled at the rear from the outset, Room For Excuse was looking the perfect pun for most of the way – tight for room and would be an dead-set certainty beaten if he got home too late.

But A’Isisuhairi, already a winner of a race by the scruff of the neck earlier (Jay Eff Express) had not left his A-game at home. The two-time Singapore champion apprentice jockey finally got his horse out of a pickle at the 300m to set sail after Lim’s Rally (Soo Khoon Beng), the very same horse who had kept him hemmed in down the back.

Lim’s Rally was showing no signs of letting up as he made a beeline for the winning post but Room For Excuse lengthened up beautifully inside the last 150m to lunge right on the line and score by a head from a very gallant Lim’s Rally.

My Brothers Keeper (Manoel Nunes) ran third another 1 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 22.55secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.

“I was very lucky as I was held up at the 400m. KB’s horse held me in and I had to wait for him to go forward before I could come out from around his heels,” said A’Isisuhairi.

“Luckily, I got a clear run, but I had to work a bit to get his momentum going and he found the line very strongly.”

Room For Excuse was recording his third win from 16 starts for prizemoney that has tipped over the $230,000 mark for Masa Otani of Big Valley Stable.

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