Rocket Man still turbo-powered, says Shaw
If everyone says Singapore champion Rocket Man is missing a cylinder lately, Patrick Shaw wants to know why nobody has told him.
'I haven't heard that at all. I didn't know people were saying that and I'm surprised,' he said as the dual international Group One winner prepared for payback time after JJ The Jet Plane nosed him out of last year's Hong Kong Sprint.
A feature of Rocket Man's career has been the effortlessness of his wins and this year he took that trait even to the Golden Shaheen in Dubai and the KrisFlyer Sprint on his home turf at Kranji.
It was a breakthrough year for Shaw's powerhouse galloper, after a frustrating run of photo-finish seconds in international events in Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong previously.
He took himself to a 125-international rating and a place in the rarefied air at the top of world classifications.
There was talk of Shaw chasing a match-up with Black Caviar and the trainer never backed down on his belief that Rocket Man was doing something the Aussie mare was not - taking it to the world and emerging victorious.
But the first unplaced run of his life in Japan in the Sprinters Stakes won by Curren Chan and a domestic win afterwards that lacked that usual ruthless dynamism were taken in some quarters as a sign that Rocket Man has already peaked and might be on the way down.
'No way. I'm happy that he's as good as he was,' said Shaw. 'In Japan there were things which interrupted his preparation and I think in Singapore the second horse performed well above average.
'If you looked at the other horses in the race they were still five or six lengths behind like before, but the horse than ran second improved. And Rocket Man's body weight was up a bit in that race anyway - it was really a prep race for here, so we didn't expect his very best.'
Win, lose or draw on Sunday over 1,200m, though, Rocket Man could well return in 2012 in a different role. 'I think he will be looking for further soon, which is something I've been dying to do with him, but you don't fix what isn't broken,' Shaw said.
'I think he will run a mile at least and that's been my feeling for a long time, but while he is running with the best sprinters why change? You could see him back here for the Hong Kong Mile next year. I'd love to do that and something like that is the goal eventually.'
While Barend Vorster has been a regular jockey for Rocket Man in his domestic career, his fellow South African, Felix Coetzee, has had the reins on the international stage.
That will change this weekend, as Vorster gets his first ride at Sha Tin and a tilt at international glory after doing all the hard yards at his Singapore base.
'Felix was always booked to ride the horse in Japan, and he put off other things to make himself available, so I always felt obligated to stick with that,' Shaw said.
'But it was more or less a known thing that Barend would take over after that. He rides him every morning and nobody knows him better.
'Felix rang yesterday to say he wouldn't be coming on Sunday but he would be watching and wishing us the best.'