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Star Emperor takes on the big boys

Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

One week after meeting with no joy in a feature race, trainer Leticia Dragon is undaunted in her resolve to have another crack at the big time.

While her stable banner Nimble beating one home in Sunday’s Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) was on face value a disappointing result, Dragon is pressing on with her intention to run Star Emperor in his first Group race – this Sunday’s $175,000 Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m).

It’s another daring gamble on the cards given the Red Giant five-year-old is taking a quantum leap in class. Rated at only 74 points, the two-time winner (up to Class 3 level) is going up against the big boys like Circuit Land (113), Clarton Super (107) and Elite Invincible (103), all accomplished Group winners.

A giant-killing act seems preposterous, more so when Star Emperor is badly-weighted at 51kgs (he should have on handicap given topweight War Affair on 58 kgs more than 21kgs!), but Dragon has a few positive spins on the gelding’s side.

“Star Emperor is running above his usual standard. Preditor, Clarton Super, Sky Rocket are classy horses and will be hard to beat, but he’s going in with a light weight,” said Dragon who boasts only one feature race win in eight years of training in the Group 3 Magic Millions Juvenile Championship with Rising Empire in 2012.

“He ran on well for third to Sun Marshal at his last start (Class 3 race over 1600m), and Sun Marshal just won the Derby on Sunday! That formline certainly give us some hope.

“The 1400m is also a good trip for him. He’s in good form, galloped nicely on Saturday, doing around 40 (seconds in the last 600m).

“It’ll still be tough, but nonetheless, we keep our fingers crossed. (Leading apprentice jockey) Simon Kok (Wei Hoong) will ride him as there aren’t many lightweight jockeys around.”

While Dragon is under no illusions Star Emperor faces an uphill task on Sunday, a more encouraging run from Nimble in the Singapore Derby could have given her that boost all trainers dream of when they go in with a longshot.

But the lacklustre run from the former Perth galloper, who did make Dragon dream big when he reeled off a five-in-a-row at his first five Kranji starts, has brought her back down to Earth.

“Two things went against him – the distance and the track. He didn’t stay (1800m) and he didn’t handle the wet track,” said Dragon.

“I think he’s a horse who races better fresh. In hindsight, I ran him too close to his previous race when he ran so well.

“He’ll have a break and I will bring him back to races that I’ll keep up to the mile. I’m sure he can bounce back.”

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