An International Group 1 victory has again eluded local champion sprinter Rocket Man when Hong Kong visitor Green Birdie took out the $1 million KrisFlyer International Sprint over 1200m on Sunday.

The local champion was brave with his second placing behind the Hong Kong galloper but that elusive win at International Group 1 level still awaits.

Rocket Man has the imposing record of 12 starts for nine wins and three seconds, all of which have come at International Group 1 level.

Green Birdie, ridden by Mark Du Plessis, scored by a neck over Rocket Man (Robbie Fradd) with Happy Zero (Darren Beadman) two-and-a-half lengths away third.

The former Australian galloper, Green Birdie, is raced by Hong Kong owner Roger Li Ka Chun, and clocked the time of 1 min 09.62 secs.

While defeated Rocket Man didn’t disappoint his legion of fans, while connections blamed the rain that fell on the track, downgrading it to a yielding 5.2, for the gelding’s defeat.

Fradd had Rocket Man quickly out of the barriers to be sitting on the outside of the leader Gold Trail (Michael Rodd) with Mexican Rose (Saimee Jumaat) and Green Birdie next in line.

As the field turned for home, Fradd elected to head off the fence in search of better going whereas Gold Trail stuck hard to the inside, kicking clear.

A gap appeared for Green Birdie to race through. Gold Trail stuck bravely to his task and only wilted over the last 100m while Rocket Man and Green Birdie settled down for the struggle to the line.

In the end it was Green Birdie who prevailed over a valiant Rocket Man while Happy Zero rattled home out wide for a brave third over a trip that is nowadays possibly just a shade short.

Fradd said he held concerns that the track was not draining as well as it might.

“I had my concerns before the race,” said Fradd. “The grass had been left a little longer than it is normally and because of that the track wasn’t draining as well as it normally does.

“He was having trouble getting a good grip on the track and because of that he didn’t have his usual kick.

“It is disappointing but he was brave and tried his heart out.”

Trainer Pat Shaw was deflated with the loss but said that on the day the better horse prevailed.

“The ground was a little heavier than he has normally raced on and he just couldn’t give a kick on that track,” said Shaw.

“He had never seen anything that heavy and with the screw in his leg he just wasn’t comfortable.

“He gave his all and really I cannot be disappointed. It is a pity the rain came when it did.”

The most dejected was owner Fred Crabbia who cut a lonely figure standing by the rail waiting for Fradd to return.

“I feel gutted to be beaten again,” said Crabbia. “But what can you do.

“He was beaten by the better horse on the day. He was brave again, but who knows what the result would have been had the track been firmer.”

While Rocket Man was brave in defeat, nothing could be taken away from Green Birdie who provided Mark Du Plessis, who rode with distinction here in Singapore from 2003 to 2006.

“It’s my biggest win,” said Du Plessis. “I won the Singapore Gold Cup here a couple of times but this race is an International Group 1.

“I only got the ride when Brett (Prebble) couldn’t ride him and I hope now that I might be able to stay with him, but that will be a decision to be made by the owners.”

He added that to win the race for Caspar Fownes was a special moment for him as the trainer had been inspirational in lending a helping hand.

“To win for Caspar is such a great feeling,” said Du Plessis. “He has been a great support for me in Hong Kong and to repay him in this way is just fantastic.

“He usually gets back, but I rode him where he was comfortable. He travelled that good and he gave a good kick.

“Before coming up from Melbourne he had shown form on wet ground, so the ground wasn’t really a concern for me.

“He handled it really well.”

STORY COURTESY OF SINGAPORE TURF CLUB NEWS by Craig Brennan & Michael Lee

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