Getting to know a horse better as a team was the key ingredient towards Zygarde (NZ) (Atlante) finally showing his true colours on Saturday.
Since his encouraging debut third almost a year ago, the son of Atlante named after a Pokemon dragon had not quite fulfilled that early promise with runs ending closer to the rear than at the other end.
Trainer Tan Kah Soon was a little befuddled by this reversal of fortunes, but remained confident that potential could not have just vanished.
Immaturity was to the Malaysian conditioner the main conviction. Armed with his usual patience and after testing the four-year-old over a variety of distances and roping in Marc Lerner for his assistance, Tan had an inkling the raw individual had finally been cooked to perfection ahead of Saturday’s Lim’s Lightning 2018 Stakes (1200m) in Singapore.
Positioned worse than midfield throughout, Zygarde laid low until he started to pick his way through the pack before lengthening up like a good thing inside the last 200m.
However, Louis-Philippe Beuzelin seemed keen on a late French showdown between jockeys when he launched Fort Mustang (Unencumbered) with a strong bid on the outside, but it was Lerner who greeted the judge “bonjour” with half-a-length to spare.
“This horse was very immature. At his first start after the break, he just lost the plot in the parade ring,” said Tan.
“He can be difficult in the mornings, but he can be chilled when he’s just out there having a pick of grass. In that brain of his, he’s still a kid.
“He then came back on turf and was stepped up to the mile, but he raced too keen for Zyrul (Nor Azman). I still think he can stay the mile.
“Marc has been riding him in trackwork and rode him once. He knows him well.
“I think it’s been all about a good dose of patience and finding the right race for him.”
After a few leg-ups on Jeffrey Soh’s galloper, Lerner has slowly but surely found the right buttons to push – even if the response is not always at the drop of a hat.
“He’s a funny horse, he can switch off and get off the bit. That’s why I was not too worried he was a bit far back today as sooner or later he would switch back on,” said Lerner.
“I know he had ability from his first run with Daniel Moor when he ran third in a Restricted Maiden race (December 8, 2019).
“Today, he was in a rather moderate field and he was probably the best horse. I know him better now after having also ridden him in a barrier trial.”
Zygarde was purchased out of Valachi Downs’ 2018 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 draft for $80,000.