Burridge backs Black Swan for another hurrah

Black Swan’s charmed run does not seem to end anytime soon, but only nine months ago, trainer Steven Burridge was wondering if he would even win a race one day.

After three seasons and 23 winless runs at Kranji, the son of Sebring had five seconds and three thirds as his best results to show for.

At least the placings did give room for some hope for the Big Valley Stable-owned gelding. That first win finally came in a Class 5 race over 2000m on June 11, 2017 when ridden by Michael Rodd.

Steven Burridge marvels at Black Swan’s meteoric rise.

As the saying goes, it has been onwards and upwards since. In 10 more starts, Black Swan has knocked in four more wins (1600m to 1800m) and four more placings.

From 43 points, he has nearly doubled up his rating to now sit on 81 points, earning 11 points at his last two back-to-back wins, first in Class 3 company, then in a Kranji Stakes B race.

Every time doubters think the Australian-bred five-year-old – who is chestnut and not black – will fail when the bar is raised, he seems to prove them wrong.

Sunday’s $100,000 Kranji Stakes B race over 1600m is the next hurdle, but Burridge has faith in the indisputably most-improved horse in his stable.

“He’s been the success story at the stable, hasn’t he?” said the Australian handler, who himself is enjoying his own success story as the current premiership leader.

“He couldn’t win a race and then he’s won five races and he’s in Class 2 and who knows, he could be my Gold Cup horse later in the year.

“And all that after he had bone chips removed last year followed by a wind op. Patience has paid off.”

The Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) is the country’s premier handicap race run on November 11.

Black Swan, who will again have his last-start winning partner, two-kilo claiming apprentice jockey Noh Senari up, is this week reverting to Polytrack, which Burridge thinks is his preferred surface even if the versatile gelding has won on both.

“It’s a Polytrack race he’s running in again. He seems to handle Polytrack better,” said Burridge who brought up his 700th winner with Chalaza on Sunday.

“I am looking at a Class 2 race over 2000m race in three weeks’ time for him (March 30).”

While Burridge will be pinning his hopes on Black Swan on Sunday, Lim’s Racer may well be the one to help extend his lead on Friday.

The 2016 Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) winner can mix her form, but has overall been a source of satisfaction to connections. The Red Giant mare won well at her last start, a Class 3 race over 1200m going all the way for Burridge’s apprentice jockey Simon Kok Wei Hoong.

Unfortunately, Kok is suspended for careless riding aboard Dee Dee d’Or this week with Burridge again roping Noh in for the steering duties.

“Simon would have ridden her but he got suspended. I got Noh on instead and he will claim two kilos,” said Burridge.

“She’s a bit up in the weights, but she’s been working well and I expect her to run well again.”

Chalaza hands milestone and lead back to Burridge

WATCH Replay – Race 8

Just when the momentum seemed to be swinging the other way, a timely double from Autumn Rush and Chalaza has propelled trainer Steven Burridge to his 700th Kranji win – and back to the top of the log on Sunday.

The Australian handler has sat atop the trainer’s premiership since January 21. Despite the saying it is easier to reach the top than stay there, he has done a good job keeping a gaggle of trainers like Michael Clements, Shane Baertschiger and 2017 champion Mark Walker at bay all this while, until Clements unseated him with a hat-trick of wins on Friday.

But Burridge has turned the tide right back up, responding with a two-timer from two of his better-performed horses this season, while achieving a personal milestone for good measure.

Chalaza (Ryan Curatolo, No 8) strikes a late blow to claim the Class 2 race on Sunday.

After Autumn Rush (Simon Kok Wei Hoong) edged the former jockey one win closer to the 700 landmark, the one that mattered came off two races later with Chalaza (Ryan Curatolo) in the $100,000 Class 2 race over 1400m.

The Road To Rock five-year-old is not without ability, as his record of four wins and four placings from 14 starts suggested, but the Mark Walker duo of Elite Invincible and Kingsman looked hard to beat, not to mention resuming quality gallopers Arhat and Mr Fatkid, though ideally, they were warming up for longer assignments down the road.

Under the circumstances, Chalaza’s odds of $42 looked reasonable, but deep down, Burridge knew he could turn milestone provider with a bit of luck.

Which Chalaza lacked in spades at his last outing, when he kept running into dead ends and never had a decent crack at the winner Tannhauser in a similar Class 2 event over 1200m.

Curatolo, by his own admission, later said it was not one of his better rides. Keen to give himself a good buffer of wins before he heads out for a two-day ban (careless riding), the French jockey redeemed himself with an inch-perfect ride that saw Chalaza find daylight at the right time before sustaining a searching run to the line.

Chalaza went on to post a half-length victory from the fast-closing Kingsman (Mohd Firdaus) with $13 favourite Elite Invincible (Glen Boss) third another short head away. The winning time was 1min 22.66secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.

Walker’s redoubtable duo had every chance, but were just outsprinted fair and square by a better horse on the day, 4kgs pull in weights between the winner and Elite Invincible notwithstanding. Kingsman had 51.5kgs on his back.

Burridge, the Singapore champion trainer in 2010, was all smiles as he celebrated his latest accolade with connections. He was also presented with a bottle of champagne by fellow Kranji trainer Leslie Khoo on behalf of the Association of Racehorse Trainers (Singapore).

“It’s sensational to reach this landmark. Thank you to all my owners for their support and also the stable staff for their amazing help at the stable,” said the Australian handler (16 wins) who was also claiming back the yellow jersey back after temporarily handing the lead to hat-trick hero Michael Clements (15 wins) on Friday night.

“I can’t do it on my own. Let’s hope it keeps going.

“This horse handles the wet track quite well, but more importantly, he has to be ridden quiet.

“We tried to wind him up early before and it does not work. He couldn’t finish it off.

“It’s good to get another winner for the boss, Mr Lim (Siah Mong of Lim’s & Mark’s Stable) who has been a great supporter of mine.”

Chalaza has now brought his record to five wins and four placings from 15 starts for prizemoney in excess of the $240,000 mark for connections.

Curatolo was certainly glad he had reunited successfully with Chalaza, as before the luckless run that many thought they were the certainty beaten, the pair had combined to win more or less in the same fashion on January 19.

“I have a good affinity with this horse as I know him very well, but I rode him badly at his last start,” he said.

“I could not get out, but today, when he saw daylight, he just opened up and won a nice race. He’s a horse you need to ride cold, he doesn’t like to be contacted with other horses.

“At the start, I was happy where I was, but I had to take hold of him a few times at the half-mile as he was climbing over heels in behind horse. I had to pop him off as I didn’t want to find myself too far back.

“He improved around horses very nicely, but once we were in the straight, I made sure I didn’t hit him too often. One just to get him to wake up, and I waited and waited before I gave him another smack.

“He’s got a short burst and you have to time his run well. It’s great I won today as I am suspended for the next two meetings.

“I wished I had won two, but Arr Flair just got beaten a nose (by Jacks Secret in Race 3). But three winners for the weekend is not too bad.”

Curatolo rode a double on Friday aboard Lord O’Reilly and Yabadabadoo, and sits in third place on 14 winners, two behind leader Vlad Duric.

Kok in a Rush for better things

The kudos continue to pour in for young apprentice jockey Simon Kok Wei Hoong after he booted home his first riding double on Sunday.

WATCH replay Race 6

The Ipoh-born 22-year-old only began his fledgling riding career on January 23, riding a winner at his very first day at school – aboard Autumn Rush for his boss Steven Burridge at only his second ride.

It is that same Autumn Rush who has now handed the dressage-trained jockey another milestone on Sunday – his first brace after earlier scoring aboard the Mohd Yusof-trained Joyous.

Autumn Rush (Kok Wei Hoong) storms home to post a brilliant win in Race 6.

Interestingly, Autumn Rush’s three-quarter-length win in the $80,000 Class 3 race over 1000m, was the first come-from-behind win for Kok. His first three wins all came from the front.

While such diversity in riding styles always helps in steering clear of any “one-trick pony” label for any rider, senior or junior, Kok modestly attributed the win to his boss’s instructions.

“I’m very happy to get a second win today. The first earlier win in a Class 5 race over 1600m was a different experience and it worked out well,” said Kok.

“Autumn Rush ran very well again, and he also gave me my first win. I am very grateful to my boss and the owners for letting me ride such a good horse.

“There was a fast pace to the race and I just wanted to think positive, jump him well and tuck him in behind the speed, and he ran on at the right time to win the race.”

From barrier No 11, the Keano five-year-old actually did not “tuck in” so well, but even though he was trapped three to four wide the whole trip, he did get a semblance of cover behind Silkino (Ryan Curatolo).

But his salvation came from the helter-skelter rush to the front with five horses scrambling for the coveted spot for the first half of the scamper. The relentless pace probably enabled Autumn Rush ($87) to settle quite relaxed about four lengths astern.

Inevitably, those who had worn themselves out upfront could not quite go on with the job. Leader Dragon Spirit (Chin See Cheng) and former Group 3 Juvenile Championship winner Mystic Master (Alan Munro) were the first to show the white flag, a scenario which would lean towards the one expected by the vast majority – odds-on favourite Filibuster (Michael Rodd) sending her rivals packing as she came poking her head through the pack at the 300m.

But the $7 hotpot, who also raced deep from an awkward alley, sent out distress signals instead. Rodd got stuck into the previously unbeaten filly, but she was as flat as a pancake.

Mokastar (Barend Vorster), on the other hand, was looking the goods for Ricardo Le Grange (starved of a win since Nowyousee on February 4) when he hit the front, but it proved insufficient when Autumn Rush sling shot his way from midfield to land the spoils with half-a-length to spare from Mokastar.

Yulong Fast Steed (Vlad Duric) flew from the ruck to finish third another 1 ½ lengths away. The winning time was 59.59 seconds for the 1000m on the Polytrack.

“He’s a honest horse, but can be a bit awkward. Today I told the kid to ride him quiet as I thought they would go mad in front, and he also drew wide,” said the Australian handler, who was incidentally reclaiming the lead from Michael Clements (Friday hat-trick saw the Zimbabwean-born handler wrest the lead) with that win.

“He also picked up 10 points after his last win, which I thought was a bit harsh, but Simon rode him a treat. He’s certainly going well the lad.”

With that fourth win, Autumn Rush has now seen his stakes earnings snowball past the $180,000 mark for the EZ Stable.

There is just no stopping Black Swan

WATCH Replay – Race 8

The bar was deemed to have been raised a fraction too high this time, but Black Swan silenced the doubters with yet another gutsy win in the $100,000 Kranji Stakes B race over the mile on Friday night.

Not too long ago, the Sebring five-year-old was struggling to shed his maiden status, until he finally got off the mark in a Class 5 race over 2000m on June 11, 2017.

The floodgates have opened up since, with three more wins added to his tally, the last coming at his last start in a Class 3 race over 1700m.

Black Swan (Noh Senari, on the inside) pulls out all the stops to deny Maximus (Troy See) of a win.

When Black Swan’s name popped up among the big 14-horse field in the Kranji Stakes B race, the consensus among the experts seemed to be the fairytale run would come to an end as reflected by his unusually long odds of $136.

Not to mention he might be a bit out of his depth against stronger opposition in the likes of Certainly, Excellency or Mighty Kenny.

But trainer Steven Burridge and apprentice jockey Noh Senari went in with no pressure, just a very simple battle plan: Ride him for luck buried away on the rails if possible.

Noh, who had already won a race earlier aboard Vesontio, listened to the instructions to a tee and the end result was a riveting nose-win from Maximus (Troy See).

Midfield and scraping paint throughout, Black Swan was not really motoring home at the 400m, but after Noh pulled the stick on the Big Valley Stable-owned gelding, he started to pin his ears back and lower his neck. Ducking back to a gap on the inside, Black Swan suddenly hit top speed as he collared Maximus on his nearside close home before gaining victory by the proverbial pimple.

Darshini (Wong Chin Chuen) ran third another 1 ½ lengths away with Robin Hood (Olivier Placais) another half-a-length away in fourth place. The winning time was 1min 35.68secs for the 1600m on the Long Course.

From being a Class 5 horse, Black Swan has now become a handy moneyspinner for his connections with close to $300,000 in stakes earnings.

“I told Noh to just ride him for luck and it’s paid off,” said Burridge.

“With Michael Rodd (Certainly) and Mighty Kenny in front, we just had to follow them and bide our time. The Gold Cup could be a race for him now as I am sure he will run 2000m.

“Thank you to Masa Otani for giving me time to let his horse come right.”

Noh said he was not very bullish going into the race but just stuck to the script, and to his surprise, everything just fell into place.

“Mr Burridge just told me to stay on the inside and ride him for luck. Don’t go out, stay there,” said Saimee Jumaat’s apprentice jockey.

“But he came home very nicely for me. I didn’t expect him to do that even if I know he was in good form.”

With the riding double, Noh takes the lead in the Singapore apprentice jockeys’ premiership on six wins, tied with Zawari Razali, but ahead on a better countback for seconds.

The Singaporean lad, however, was not too fussed about the feat, knowing full well there is still a long way to go. To him, what was more important was the inner peace he has now found.

“It’s nice to ride a double as competition is so tough these days,” said Noh who made his comeback last year after nearly giving the game away due to some personal issues.

“The other winner (Vesontio) is a very nice horse and I’m just lucky to get the ride. I’m not sure if I will ride him again, but I certainly hope so.

“I’m in a happy place now, both physically and mentally. Things could not be going any better at the moment.”