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Bencoolen gets off the mark at his fifth start at Kranji.

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Bencoolen (NZ) (Swiss Ace) finally franked the potential he has always shown with a convincing first win in the $20,000 Open Maiden race over 1200m on Friday night.

Given a confident ride by champion jockey Vlad Duric, Bencoolen was quick out of his barrier one, but was just as quickly eased out of the speed battle when a trio made up of Lim’s Sphere, Agni and Air Combat rushed past him.

Duric waited for the top of the straight to stoke the four-year-old up, who darted to the front for a move that looked a foregone conclusion, but he had to contend with one late challenge from Lee Freedman’s newcomer Smoke And Mirrors who was flying home on the outside.

Under Duric’s hard riding, Bencoolen, however, kept finding to hold Smoke And Mirrors off by three parts of a length. Attention also ran on creditably for third place another 2 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 11.02secs for the 1200m on the Long Course

Trainer Stephen Gray said the winner’s circle was a place Bencoolen could have visited earlier, but it’s been a struggle to get him there, especially following a recent racing setback.

“He’s probably better than what he’s shown. Two starts back, he got galloped on and it was pretty serious,” said the Kiwi handler.

“We thought we were on top of it and then it got infected. We had to put him on penicillin and we struggled for a while, but luckily, he got well.

“He ran on good with Vlad two starts back. At his last start, he was trapped on the fence, and when they sprinted away, he was left flat-footed.

“He probably needs a mile. I brought two good friends together to race this horse, Paul Hickman and Mr Lim Siah Mong.

“They have another horse with me. It’s all about having a bit of fun together.”

Duric said all the credit should go to Gray for not only his patience, but also for his horsemanship.

“I actually told Steve to leave the blinkers off as he was quite aggressive with them on, but Steve said he would be okay with them. It was a good call,” said the two-time Singapore champion jockey.

“He was in a weak field tonight and he had the perfect draw. I still had to rate him and see how he would get through the field as he’s not the brightest spark.

“But it worked out smoothly. I had to really get him through my rhythm in the end.”


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