AK Lim fires up first Kranji win on Spirit Seven

WATCH Replay – Race 3

Former Kuala Lumpur apprentice jockey Lim Aun Kean finally rode his first winner in Singapore on Friday night.

That big first might not have come for his new master John O’Hara, but the 30-year-old Kedah-born rider was first and foremost happy he had broken the duck at his 17th Kranji ride.

It’s trainer Steven Burridge who supplied Lim with the winning ride – $150 outsider Spirit Seven in the $45,000 Class 4 Non Premier race over 1600m.

Malaysian apprentice jockey Lim Aun Kean opens his account in Singapore aboard Spirit Seven on Friday.

Another longshot, One Force (Iskandar Rosman), was fighting out the finish with O’Reilly Bay (Zy Nor Azman), but they were both left standing when Lim brought Spirit Seven with a well-timed run, sailing home on the outside for quite a soft win by 1 ¾ lengths from One Force.

Plato (Alysha Collett) plugged on along the rails to finish third another three parts of a length away. The winning time was 1min 35.62secs for the 1600m on the Short Course.

“I’ve always wanted to ride in Singapore and it’s great to finally ride my first winner here,” said Lim, who had 106 winners under the belt when he was indentured to trainer Wayne Lim Woei Chet up North.

“It’s been a bit of a wait, but I just had to be patient. I hope I will get more support from other trainers from now on.

“It doesn’t matter if that first win didn’t come for Mr O’Hara. I’m sure I will ride a winner for him soon.

“I actually rode that horse at his last start. He ran on very well then.

“Credit to the trainer who has kept him fit after that run. The horse has actually improved.

“We had a good run from the start. He doesn’t have a lot of speed, but we were able to secure the rails, and we improved to be midfield.

“Turning for home, I took him to the outside. When we got the gap, he just flew home for a very nice win.”

Lim, who has already been nicknamed AK47 by the local media, actually knew the Hala Bek five-year-old fairly well as he rode him at his last start (Class 4 Non Premier over 1400m) last Friday. The pair turned in an eye-catching fourth.

Though Spirit Seven was the first standby starter this time, Burridge booked Lim again – an inspiring move from the Malaysian’s perspective no doubt, after Roman Classic was withdrawn.

“He won a nice race two starts back, which was on Polytrack, but he also ran well on turf before,” said Burridge.

“He’s come right now. He had some feet issues that we have sorted.

“We can train him more properly now and he won a solid race tonight. AK rode him well at his last start and that’s why I kept him on. Good for him to get his first winner.”

With that fourth win, Spirit Seven has now taken his stakes earnings past the $110,000 mark for his owner Chionh Teck Swee.

Story by Michael Lee

Lim’s Lightning sparks fighting win in Aushorse Golden Horseshoe

WATCH Replay – Race 6

The victory was harder to engineer than expected but favourite Lim’s Lightning still got the job done in the $325,000 Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) on Friday night.

Unlike his emphatic four-length win in the third Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series, the IRT Juvenile Stakes (1200m) on June 15, Lim’s Lightning ($12) had to flex every sinew of his athletic 508-kilo frame to overpower a very tenacious foe in surprise packet Galvarino.

Again ridden by his last-start winning partner Ryan Curatolo, Lim’s Lightning actually enjoyed an energy-saving soft run in transit after jumping from barrier No 2, settling cosily in the box-seat behind the pacy Lim’s Dream (John Powell) with Galvarino (Troy See) for company on his outside.

Lim's Lightning

Lim’s Lightning (Ryan Curatolo) reels in outsider Galvarino (Troy See) to claim the Aushorse Golden

Behind, the rest of the capacity 16-horse field was fairly strung out with many of the top picks who had drawn the cheap seats looking hard-pushed to make up the deficit, notably the unbeaten Pennywise (Nooresh Juglall), who was further compounded by a tardy getaway, Siam Vipasiri (Daniel Moor) and Toosbies (Michael Rodd).

As the leading bunch swung for home, Lim’s Dream quickly capitulated, but it was Galvarino ($151) who drew first blood as he strode to the front with the cheek of a juvenile who had thus far exhibited more prowess (of the untutored kind) at the barriers than down the home straight, though he did run a decent fourth at his only start in that same third Leg won by Lim’s Lightning.

That day, the son of Stryker was left standing more than four lengths astern when Lim’s Lightning bolted, but the roles were switched in the grand final as he turned into the one to chase down, absolutely looking the part as he kept knuckling down to the task with 200m to go.

But class prevails in adversity. Taunted and caught a little on the backfoot, Lim’s Lightning did not take it lying down.

Responding to Curatolo’s urgings, the son of Lope De Vega rose to the challenge as he snuck up on the inside of Galvarino, gnawing his way back with every stride towards a most regal showdown inside the last 100 metres.

Two youngsters, raw in all their glory, but fighting tooth-and-nail as much as their unbridled talent can afford them, with the nod eventually going to the punters’ elect by a short head. Conquered he may have been at the last hop, but the gallant Galvarino had also conquered many new admirers.

Still, the run of the race had to be from My Big Boss (Vlad Duric) who no doubt vaulted his way into the blackbookers with a scorching late dash on the outside to secure a laudable third place another one-and-three-quarter lengths away. The winning time was 1min 10.07secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.

Winning trainer Steven Burridge, who was snaring his third Aushorse Golden Horseshoe win after Pitstop (2012) and Lim’s Racer (2016), praised the people behind the scenes in his victory speech, particularly former jockey Richard Lim for helping the previously wayward juvenile turn the corner.

“The horse hasn’t run in one month. We had to nurse him back to fitness,” said the Australian conditioner.

“Big thanks to my staff, my wife Julie of course, and also, Richard Lim who has done a good job on him. He was quite a handful earlier and Richard has spent a lot of time educating him properly.”

Prize presentation

Winning connections all smiles after Lim Lightning’s triumph: (from left) jockey Ryan Curatolo, trainer
Steven Burridge, racing manager Mick Dittman and owner Mr Lim Siah Mong.

The other main beneficiary of all the backroom boys’ hard work was of course Curatolo, the former Macau-based French jockey who was claiming his first Group success in Singapore.

“I’m really delighted with that first Group win in Singapore,” said the US-trained hoop who was also ringing up a hat-trick of wins, having earlier saluted aboard Smooth Operator and Turquoise King.

“He’s a very good racehorse with a great pedigree and he proved it again today. The last 200m was not as strong as at his last win, but that was because he was not so comfortable on the inside as he is on the outside.

“I’ve said all week it wasn’t an easy race, but he proved he was something special with the way he fought all the way to the line.

“I’d like to thank Steven Burridge and (racing manager) Mick Dittman and all the staff. It was a great team effort.

“Things are going well for me here, and I’ve got so much to look forward to. I just have to keep on going stronger.”

Dittman said the stable was very proud of their second Aushorse Golden Horseshoe winner after Lim’s Racer, but also paid compliments to a trainer he has now worked closely with since the champion owner’s 2015 Kranji comeback after a hiatus.

“He showed some ticker out there tonight that horse. The second horse gave a good kick, but he fought back in the last 50 yards,” said the former Sydney champion jockey known as The Enforcer.

“We’re very proud of him considering he’s had only three starts. He’s got a good future.

“It’s not been easy for Steve to keep that horse up in the last three to four weeks, but he’s victorious and we’re very happy.

“Mr Lim (Siah Mong) puts a lot of money in races and loves his races. Those big races are so important to him.

“It’s great to get to the big races and have the right horse to get it right.”

Buying on behalf of the Lim’s Stable, Dittman did not actually have to break the bank for Lim’s Lightning. He cost only $50,000 at the 2017 Magic Millions Horses in Training Sale, which incidentally makes him eligible for the $70,000 bonus on top of the lion’s share of the $325,000 purse up for grabs – roughly around $165,000.

Adding on to the $56,000 already in the bank following his second-up win in the IRT Juvenile Stakes and a debut third in a Novice race, Lim’s Lightning has amassed close to $290,000 in earnings, more than recouping his purchase price tag in only three runs.

And last but not least, Lim’s Lightning also won the “Best Groomed” horse award, sending his happy strapper home $500 richer.

Story by Michael Lee

Curatolo believes Lightning can strike twice

The rumble following Lim’s Lightning’s rousing maiden victory in the IRT Juvenile Stakes (1200m) has grown so loud that many think he will take some beating in the final Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series this Friday.

The facile four-length winner may be up against this year’s cream of the two-year-old crop (fellow Leg winners Pennywise, Streetwise, not forgetting other exciting prospects like Siam Vipasiri, Mr Hooper and Autumn Assault), but the way he stamped his authority in the third Leg exuded that wow factor only the smarter ones among his peers can do.

Trainer Steven Burridge is trying to keep a lid on, though. The Australian put the bridle on the 2016 champion 2YO Lim’s Racer, another one for the Lim’s Stable, but the filly – who has recently been transferred to Daniel Meagher – has not really set the world alight post-juvenile, other than winning a couple more up to Class 3 level.

Lim's Lightning

Lim’s Lightning (Ryan Curatolo) races away to an easy win second-up.

Burridge would rather wait for Lim’s Lightning’s run – only his third start – in Friday’s $325,000 Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) before sticking any label on.

“I’m very happy with the way he has come through between runs. He has trained on nicely,” said Burridge who has two Aushorse Golden Horseshoes to his name – Pitstop (2012) and Lim’s Racer (2016).

“He drew a good barrier (two), which is a huge factor, but we will still need luck in the running. It’s a very competitive field.

“He drew a wide barrier at his last start and needed a bit of luck. He couldn’t get in and I thought he couldn’t win, but he still won a nice race.

“I still think he’ll be a much better horse as a three-year-old and will probably get up to 1600m at some stage.”

Last-start winning partner Ryan Curatolo is also thrilled at the excellent chance of notching his first Group win in Singapore. The US-trained French jockey has taken Kranji by storm since moving from Macau in January, currently sitting in sixth place on 26 winners despite having his momentum interrupted by injury and suspensions for careless riding.

A noted form student and pedigree buff, Curatolo has delved deeper than just his one winning combination a month ago.

“If you take a look at his breeding, his sire Lope De Vega is by Shamardal. Both father and son won the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the Prix du Jockey Club in France, which are a mile and a 2100m race,” said Curatolo.

“He has a very good pedigree and I think he will get even better over more ground. He is a very promising horse.

“No doubt, it won’t be easy on Friday as it’s a very competitive race. I will leave it to the trainer and (Lim’s racing manager) Mick Dittman to decide what to do, but the good draw is a huge advantage. The horses to beat have drawn 15 (Toosbies), 16 (Autumn Assault) and 17 (Siam Vipasiri)!

“To me, Siam Vipasiri is a very good filly. She missed the kick at her first race (fourth Leg, the Inglis Ready2Race Stakes over 1200m on July 1), but she ran on very well to finish second.

“But my horse was also very impressive at his win. Everything went his way that day, it was perfect, and hopefully, we get the same perfection in the Group race.

“It’d be good to win my first Group race here in Singapore. It will look good on my CV.”

Should he come up short in the Aushorse, he still has Sunday’s $1.15 million Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby (1800m) to add that first feather to his cap. Curatolo, who won two Group 1 races in Macau, is again linking up with the Lim’s Stable with the ride aboard Lim’s Regard for trainer Mark Walker in the third Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge.

Curatolo did score a stunning breakaway win with the Red Giant four-year-old five starts back in a Kranji Stakes B race over 2000m, but the chestnut’s form has tapered off since.

“I gave my word I would support Mark Walker and the Lim’s Stable in the Derby. It’s not an easy race for Lim’s Regard, but I’m feeling good about the ride,” said Curatolo who had to turn down the ride on Countofmontecristo (his ride in the second Leg, the Charity Bowl when they finished fifth).

“He’s drawn well in six. I will talk to Mark and we may try something different with him.

“To me, I ride each horse with the same confidence. Once they are inside the gates, they all get a chance.”

Autumn Rush springs another win for Kok

WATCH Replay – Race 7

Promising apprentice jockey Simon Kok Wei Hoong made it three wins with his pet horse Autumn Rush on Friday night.

The Keano five-year-old memorably gave the young Ipoh-born rider his first career win on January 23 and that latest success in the $100,000 Kranji Stakes B race over 1000m has brought up their overall combination tally to three wins and one third from eight associations.

The former Malaysian equestrian rider called Autumn Rush, who is trained by his master Steven Burridge, his “special horse” as he weighed back in to his seventh win all-up.

Autumn Rush races past his rivals under the urgings of apprentice jockey Simon Kok Wei Hoong to land the Kranji Stakes B race on Friday.

“He’s a very special horse to me as he gave me my first win,” said a beaming Kok.

“At his second win, he flew home for me and tonight, he gave me a beautiful ride throughout.

“The boss told me to go forward but there were a couple of horses who were quicker. So I took a sit instead.

“When I peeled him out for his run, he fought very hard to catch Benny’s (Woodworth) horse (Pioneer Seven).

“I’d like to thank the connections for putting me on this horse.”

Burridge for one has stuck solid with the young man as far as finding a pilot for Autumn Rush goes – even when things did not quite pan out the way they wanted.

“He’s a very honest horse and Simon rode him well tonight,” said the Australian handler as he was wildly cheered on by an ecstatic group of connections and friends.

“I tried to take them up in class with no weight, but he was drawn awkwardly. He drew well this time (two), sometimes it makes a difference, sometimes it doesn’t, but he had the gun run tonight.”

For a fleeting moment, Pioneer Seven gave the impression he would cause another one of those boilovers he is known for when he is left alone upfront, but Kok had other ideas as he waited for the home straight to launch his “special horse”.

Pioneer Seven ($102) put up a spirited fight, but Autumn Rush ($29), in hot pursuit, wore him down with every stride to eventually gain the advantage by 1 ¼ lengths with Marine Treasure (Zy Nor Azman) sharing third place with the fast-finishing favourite Elite Power (Vlad Duric) another head away. The winning time was 58.97 seconds for the 1000m on the Polytrack.

Already a stakes winner of close to $200,000 before Friday’s race, Autumn Rush has now boosted that amount by another 25% with that fifth win. Australian jockey Glen Boss was twice his winning partner before Kok took over.

Story by Michael Lee