Rocket Man gains deserved major title in Dubai Golden Shaheen

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. That might have been the motto for Rocket Man as the Singapore superstar finally and resoundingly cracked it on the global stage with a handsome victory in the Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News.

Four times the pride of Kranji had previously raced in Group One races against international opposition for four frustrating second-place finishes – including in this race 12 months ago - with the combined margins of defeat amounting to barely over one length.

But all that angst of being the ‘nearly horse’ disappeared into the desert sky on Saturday evening as the Patrick Shaw-trained speedball scored by a widening two and a quarter length margin from Euroears.

The Hong Kong pair of Sunny King and Dim Sum finished two necks behind in third and fourth.

There can scarcely have been a more deserving winner of a major title tonight or any other night and it was the first ever by a Singapore horse outside of the Island Republic.

Nine runners went post as last year’s California-based winner, Kinsale King, was a late scratching owing to swelling in his off foreleg.

Six of the last seven editions had gone to American runners but the withdrawal of the 2010 champion left USA hopes resting solely on Bob Baffert’s trailblazer Euroears who predictably forced the pace with Rocket Man and jockey Felix Coetzee shadowing his every move in second place.

For a brief moment at the top of the stretch, it seemed as if America would take the glory again, but Rocket Man gradually wore him down, leading about 150m out and before forging clear to the roars of the sizeable Singaporean contingent present.

“I got a great start and I took him back to give Euroears the lead and tracked him. I saw Mike Smith go for his horse and when I picked up Rocket Man he responded. He is so gutsy. It was a great feeling, like being in a top sports car. He was flying,” Coetzee enthused.

Trainer Shaw added: “I was confident all week because I have never had him better. Winning on an international stage like Dubai is very special I don’t know where we go next with Rocket Man. Royal Ascot want him in the summer. But so do the Australians to take on Black Caviar so we’ll see.”