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Lightweight Kharisma springs major upset in Rocket Man Sprint

August 8, 2023 at 4:40:32 AM

Outsider Kharisma caused a major boilover with his first Group win in the $110,000 Group 3 Rocket Man Sprint (1200m) on Sunday.

A ten-time winner all over 1200m, Kharisma had five unsuccessful cracks at Group level, with a third in the Group 2 Stewards' Cup (1600m) as a four-year-old in 2021 and more recently, a second in the Group 3 Kranji Sprint (1200m) on June 3 as his best results.

However, the planets looked to have aligned beautifully in the second Leg of the STC Super Sprint series for the now seven-year-old with a handicapped weight of only 51kgs from the good barrier three and over his winning trip, as well as some good form under his belt.

On paper, Kharisma looked a solid proposition but with his last win coming in a Kranji Stakes A race in January last year, cautious punters sent him out at a generous price of $113 while Pacific Emperor was the $15 favourite in the feature race.

Upon jumping, Fame Star (Mohd Zaki) crossed from his wide gate 11 to lead as expected with Sky Eye (Vlad Duric) sliding up to his outside for company, and Major King (A'Isisuhairi Kasim) was also handy albeit three-wide with no cover.

Jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin had The August one-back on the rails on settling while jockey Sharizal Saleh had Kharisma perfectly positioned just better than midfield on the rails from his good gate. Gold Star (Krisna Thangamani), Rocket Star (Manoel Nunes) and Pacific Emperor (Wong Chin Chuen) were also among those that settled in the first half of the field on the tight first bend.

Turning for home, Fame Star tried hard but was swamped by a wall of horses at the 300m, in which The August and Kharisma were the two that kicked clear of the pack at the 200m.

Under desperate riding by Shafrizal, Kharisma slowly got the better of that duel. Yet, Pacific Emperor came flying home late with only 50.5kgs on his back over the final 50m.

But Kharisma dug deep and had the favourite's measure by a neck on the line, with The August another three-quarters-of-a-length away in third. Invincible Tycoon (Koh Teck Huat) sprouted wings late to finish another short head away, running an eye-catching fourth.

The winning time was 1 min 8.54 secs for the 1200m on the Long Course and Kharisma's 11th win from 39 starts took his earnings to over $600,000.

Winning trainer Stephen Gray was emotional after the win and he put it down to the tenacity of a horse that had seen the stable through troubled times.

"Persistence, really," explained the Kiwi conditioner to racing presenter Scott Bailey after the race.

"He (Kharisma) was our mainstay through Covid-19. He just got there (high ratings) a bit early and went quickly up in the weights and we had no races for him because these (handicap races) are the sorts of races he can win.

"We had a few feature races taken away back then and there was really only one sprint race which was a weight-for-age race (the Group 1 Lion City Cup).

"He wasn't good enough for that. (Trainer) Daniel Meagher had the best horse (Lim's Kosciuszko) then and he (Kharisma) wasn't quite up to it.

"But he slowly got down to a (winnable) handicap. I noticed he nearly won two starts ago. I knew I had to get him fit, so I ran him two weeks ago in that 1400m (Class 2) race and he went good (fifth).

"With the light weight today and a good draw, he just had a bit of luck.

"He might not be the best horse out there but he was really fit and was given a beautiful ride by Shafrizal. He's a happy horse.

"I'd like to thank all my staff. (Assistant-trainer) Saimee (Jumaat), (stable supervisor) Wikki (Vickneswaran A/L Marigapan) and his syce, Ragudevan (A/L Kalimuthu). It's been tough time of late, so we're pretty rapt.

"It's my fourth win in this race. St Kentigern (2001) and Emperor Max (2016) won it when it was called the Kranji Sprint and Lim's Cruiser won it when it changed (name) to the Rocket Man Sprint in 2017.

"At the end of the day, if you want the statistics, he's (Kharisma) probably not the best horse I've ever had, but this is probably one of the best feelings I've had for a long time.

"His previous owner – Untung Joesoef (of Dago Stable) wanted to downsize so I took over. I sold half the shares to other owners and it's their first Group win."

Shafrizal – who let out a loud scream after he crossed the line – was also over the moon with his second Group win.

"I'm very happy," said the Malaysian hoop, who won his first Group race atop Starlight in the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) two years ago.

"My horse travelled really well. He just waited for my instructions and when I got a clear run in the home straight, he just went 'whoosh'."

"Thanks to the trainer and all my supporters."

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