Racing is a game of highs and sometimes heartbreaking lows, however Sunday the 23rd of September will be a date long remembered for all associated with the stable as Debt Collector claimed his second Raffles Cup, and 4th Group 1 victory in Singapore.
A plan hatched by Cliff and owner Glen Whittenbury at the end of 2017, saw Debt Collector return to Australia for a complete break from racing and the stable environment for 6 months. DC returned bigger, stronger, refreshed and as snakier as before after enjoying the paddocks of the Kelly family owned Newhaven Park Stud in New South Wales. The stable were very confident that he was somewhere near to getting back to his best form after a great first-up second to Preditor in the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) on August 12, 10 months after his last Kranji appearance.
The 2018 Raffles Cup field was one of the best fields assembled in Singapore for many years, featuring 10 other proven Group winners, headed by Singapore Derby winner Jupiter Gold, Circuit Land, Clarton Super, Mr Clint and stablemate Group 3 winner and multiple Group 1 placed Elite Excalibur. Punters shared the stable’s and jockey Michael Rodd’s optimism sending DC out as the $11 favorite.
From barrier rise is was the typical Debt Collector race we have all witnessed before, with DC being allowed to smoke his pipe at the tail of the field. Up front it was soon evident the connections of Coutofmontecristo had a new tactical plan sending him to the lead and stringing the field out. All at the Kranji Raceourse had their hearts in their mouths when the field cornered as still last with 500m to go, Debt Collector had at least 12 lengths to make up, and Countofmontecristo had opened up an enormous gap of the rest of the field.
At the 200m with still possibly 6 lengths to make up, it appeared that he would run a nice second or third. The leader Counteofmontecristo was getting tired and both Circuit Land, Jupiter Gold and Clarton Super were all starting to bridge the gap. However, as has become his custom DC launched a staggering final 200m surge, again lugging in to intimidate those he was passing. With a turn of foot rarely seen, DC charged over the top of those in front to score by a short half head from Circuit Land, with a masterful display of timing from regular rider Michael Rodd.
Stable rider Michael Rodd has done a power of work on Debt Collector riding him in gallops and trials, and it was as much a victory for the Rodd/Brown combination and their faith in Debt Collector as a victory for anyone else. The Rodd/Brown combination has had remarkable feature race success in the last 3 years. Rodd has now won 8 times on Debt Collector and shares the most winners he has had on a horse with super mare Atlantic Jewel. In a nice bit of icing on the cake, Cliff made it three Raffles Cup victories in a row with Debt Collector winning in 2016, Gilt Complex in 2017, and now again with Debt Collector.
What made the victory all the more special was a number of Barree Stable’s close Singapore friends were on track to witness Debt Collector’s breathtaking win. Paul Robbins, Nick Johnston, Guy Shirtliff and Dennis Cornwell all joined in the victory straight after the race. Emotions were running high as the enormity of his win sank in, but also on reflection that a 12 month plan had come to fruition.
Jo Fitzsimmons (wife of B trainer Tim Fitzsimmons) and Cliff accept owner and trainer trophies.
Holidaying Barree Stable Manager owner Glenn Whittenbury, his wife Jen and children Gabrielle and Gregory and Jen’s extended family watched the race live in Greece. There have been reports coming out of the small village of Zagoria in the Epirus region of Northern Greece, that a bald Australian put on a quite a show the likes of which had never been witnessed by the locals before. The man’s behavior has been apparently been described as a mix of violent shaking, uncontrollable euphoric emotion, coupled with hysterical yelling at an audible level loud enough to start a small landslide in the local surrounding hills. It was also reported that in the confusing scene made by this tourist that the proprietors of the cafe didn’t know whether to call the police or an ambulance. Apparently Glenn’s roaring of his mighty champ home in the last 200m, is still echoing in the surrounding hills.
Post race, Glenn quickly made contact with the stable saying that celebratory drinks were on him. After checking the day’s runners and making sure DC had come through the race in good order , The DC crew congregated at the Martini Bar at the Hyatt, followed by further celebrations at the night club Brix. Glenn knows he got off quite cheaply in the end, as his enormously generous gesture could of easily have been taken advantage of by some of his more dubious Singapore friends.
Debt Collector’s victory was his ninth in Singapore from just 19 starts, his fourth Group 1 victory and sixth Group win overall. He has now amassed over $2.2million in prize money and will now be set for the Group 1 $1,000,000 QE 11 Cup on October 21st, this year run over 1800m.
As the old adage goes: “form is temporary but class is permanent” and this is so true in the case of Debt Collector. Once again Cliff has shown his incredible training ability to bring him back to form, maybe even better than he was when dominant in 2016. The stable can only thank owner Glenn Whittenbury for giving his mighty horse every possible chance to come back to his best, and we hope that this remarkable ride with DC will continue in the near future.