Nimitz still at sea, but back all guns blazing

Trainer Steven Burridge couldn’t conceal his delight after the talented but temperamental Nimitz returned to winning ways for new owners on Friday night.

WATCH Replay – Race 4

Last September’s debut winner gave every indication he would be a handy customer to the Australian handler after he went all the way in an Open Maiden race over 1200m, but the rot set in soon afterwards.

The Ready’s Image four-year-old turned into a barrier rogue. At his second run last October, he was sent off the $19 favourite but his pre-race antics behind the gates saw a warning being placed on him.

Burridge sent the naughty gelding back to school, but it would seem he did not quite mend his ways at the five barrier trials he was put through.

Nimitz (Craig Grylls) fends off Wecando (Glen Boss) to claim Race 4.

If he was to show any bellicosity that matched the might of its famous namesake, the US warship, connections would have preferred it was played out in the running – not before.

Unfortunately, Nimitz continued to wreak havoc at the pens, even leaving Burridge’s apprentice jockey Simon Kok Wei Hoong behind at the gates at one barrier trial on March 22.

But through sheer perseverance, Burridge eventually won the battle. Nimitz ran sixth at his comeback race three weeks ago, but he was better-behaved, and Friday’s all-the-way win in the $60,000 Class 4 Premier race over 1400m was a nice reward to his minders’ patience.

Ridden by Craig Grylls, Nimitz ($35) was scrubbed up early to take up the running from favourite Eastiger (Vlad Duric) with the other well-backed Wecando (Glen Boss) humming along in the box-seat.

The order didn’t change much with the real acid test kicking in inside the last two furlongs. Eastiger had the first crack, but Nimitz was holding the fort well. Wecando took over with 100m to go, and looked a lot more threatening than Eastiger, who had by then given up the fight.

Still, Nimitz would not buckle as he dug deep to repel that second wave of attack to boldly prevail by a head from Wecando with Little Big Man (Nooresh Juglall) running on late for third place another half-length away. The winning time was 1min 22.97secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.

Burridge was a picture of both joy and relief at the winner’s circle, with his son Wade of Premier Racing and new partners of the gelding, the MM Stable, by his side.

“He’s done everything wrong, but tonight he’s done everything right. It’s a great result for his new owners and Wade,” said Burridge.

“He’s been rearing up at the gates, throwing the rider down the back at the trials, but we knew he’s always had ability. He’s just very green.

“He won first-up and beat Lim’s Magic then. He’s had one run for the new owners, but that’s their first win with this horse.”

Grylls said Nimitz was still rough around the edges, but he was on the right path to total redemption.

“He’s still very green. He was hanging out badly the whole straight,” said the Kiwi jockey.

“If he could run straight, he would have won more easily. They were coming hard at him, but I gave him a few cracks behind and he kept on.”

With that second win, Nimitz has now taken his stakes earnings close to the $55,000 mark for the MM & Premier Racing Stable.

Story by Michael Lee
11/05/2018
Michael Rodd

Lim’s Royal redeems himself with slashing win

Trainer Steven Burridge was glad Lim’s Royal redeemed himself with a winning turn in the $80,000 Class 3 Division 2 race over 1400m on Friday night.

WATCH Replay – Race 8

$80,000

Prizemoney

The Australian handler, who has lost a bit of steam after topping the log in the first two months, said that the Rothesay four-year-old had not quite lived up to the lofty hopes connections had built up around him.

Lim’s Royal stamped himself as a handy sort in the making at his first prep with three wins and two thirds from seven starts.

Michael Rodd yells words of encouragement to Lim’s Royal as the winning post looms.

 

But as his ratings soared, he took on better company this year, but his form dipped at his three outings at Class 3 level, leaving Burridge scratching his head, even if they were not dismal failures at all.

Hopes were rekindled at his last run in a Class 3 Division 2 race over 1200m when he was held up for a run under Glen Boss, and still flew home for fourth to Paparazzi, who runs in the Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) next Saturday.

Lim’s Royal ($22) was clearly back to his best when he was set alight on a long searching run from the rear by first-time partner Michael Rodd – who is not often seen in the navy blue and yellow silks of the champion owner.

The well-tried Chocolats (Barend Vorster) looked like he would finally land the chocolates at his eighth start when he rocked up at the 300m, but the resuming son of Fastnet Rock was probably undercooked as he soon got the staggers under pressure.

Black Jade (Olivier Placais) and Emergency Acceptor Life Is Gamble (Mohd Zaki) were next to pounce, but they could not match Lim’s Royal’s winning mood return.

That fourth win has now edged Lim’s Royal past the $160,000 mark in prizemoney haul for the Lim’s Stable.

In trying to get to the bottom of that sudden resurgence, Burridge said the rise to seven furlongs might have helped, but he remained guarded in his post-mortem.

“He’s been a bit disappointing this time in. We thought he’d be a nice four-year-old but he hasn’t quite lived up to those expectations,” said Burridge.

“At his last runs, he weakened out, but tonight, he ran well, maybe he liked the step-up to 1400m.

“Anyway, it’s good for the boss (Mr Lim Siah Mong of Lim’s Stable) to get another win. It’s also good for me, too, as I haven’t been winning very often lately.”

The 2010 Singapore champion trainer was the lamplighter till March 4 when his tally read 16 winners on the board. He then hit a speed bump – winning only five more races in the last two and a half months, so much so he has now dropped to sixth place, but still within striking distance (five winners behind) of current leader Shane Baertschiger who is on 26 winners.

Story by Michael Lee
18/05/2018

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

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.

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

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.”

Hat-trick hero Rodd pays homage to ‘teacher’ Nunes

Australian jockey Michael Rodd took the lead in the Singapore jockeys’ premiership following a riding treble on Friday night, but still showed his usual humbleness, especially after his first-pin win aboard Black Swan.

Sent out as the $13 favourite, the vastly-improved son of Sebring had to pull out all the stops to overcome a very resilient Panache (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) in the concluding stages of the $80,000 Class 3 race over 1700m.

Rodd was seen at his usual best, timing his ride to perfection as he stoked Black Swan up from the 700m to edge closer to the leading pack made up of Panache and Hidden Promise (Vlad Duric) before reeling in the pair for a half-length win.

Black Swan (Michael Rodd, No 2) gets the better of Panache (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) by half-a-length in
Race 3.

Panache was game in defeat. The Lee Freedman-trained son of Spinning World repelled Hidden Promise’s stinging challenge rather well in the home straight, but found one better in the end.

Hidden Promise shortened up inside the last 100m to run third another 2 ¼ lengths away while the other five runners did not play a significant part in the event.

While it looked like another vintage Rodd, the modest Melbourne Cup (Efficient in 2007) and Singapore Gold Cup-winning (Gilt Complex last year) hoop explained he had to apply a few recently-learned tricks of the trade from none other than former three-time Singapore champion jockey Manoel Nunes.

“Manoel and I used to ride trackwork together last time and he would always be yelling like a boss to me. Change the lead, change the lead!” said Rodd.

“I always thought horses changed legs naturally but Manoel explained to me it’s the jockey who had to get them to do it. I’ve learned so much from him and he’s taken my riding to another level – thanks Manoel.

“Like tonight, Black Swan was on his inside leg down the back and as he does, was wobbling coming to the home turn. But at the 300m, I got him to switch to his outside leg, from his nearside to his offside front and he just found another gear.”

Black Swan has taken his stakes earnings to just under the $240,000 mark for the Big Valley Stable.

Rodd also praised trainer Steven Burridge for the way he has nurtured the Japanese-owned five-year-old late bloomer into a four-time winner at the last 10 of his 30 starts.

“Sometimes we put pressure on these young horses far too soon. Steve has left this one alone and it’s done wonders on his confidence,” said Rodd.

“Not too long ago, he was struggling, but look how far he’s come. He is now winning in a quality Class 3 race.

“Steve has done a good job to keep him happy. I wish I was a pair closer tonight, but the two horses in front did a fair bit of work, and I just bided my time.

“He was in a good position down the hill and once he was on his right leg, he just quickened so well.”

Rodd’s other two winners were Prince Ferdinand ($16 favourite) for David Hill in the $20,000 Class 5 race over 1200m and Siam Gemstone ($17) for Michael Clements in the $45,000 Class 4 Non Premier race over 1100m.

With his hat-trick of wins, Rodd has propelled himself to the top on nine winners, one win clear of 2017 Singapore champion jockey Vlad Duric, who steered one (Kingsman) home in the penultimate race (see other report).

As for Burridge, the win stretched his current lead on the 2018 table to three winners – on eight, three clear of five trainers (Alwin Tan, Shane Baertschiger, Daniel Meagher, Michael Clements and John O’Hara).

“I think there is a bit of maturity (to explain Black Swan’s radical transformation),” said the Australian conditioner.

“It has taken a long time for him to put it altogether. He used to throw his head in the air, but he is all good now and Michael rode him very well.

“It’s also good for Masa Otani who has stuck with both (trainer Hideyuki) Takaoka and myself for so long.”

Autumn Rush gives Simon Kok dream start

Simon Kok Wei Hoong has loved horse riding since he was 10 but it’s taken him another 10 years to decide which way he wanted to go, and on Tuesday night the newly-licensed apprentice jockey stood tall at Kranji as he weighed in a winner at his first night of race-riding.

The Ipoh-born Kok got bitten by the horse bug when he watched his maternal uncle jockey Leong Kar Wah on TV. It wasn’t long before he was on a horseback himself and next thing he knew he went on to ride on the equestrian circuit for 10 years.

But if he wanted to follow into his uncle’s footsteps, he knew jumps and eventing would have to be cast aside one day.

Apprentice jockey Simon Kok Wei Hoong off to his first win aboard Autumn Rush.

Ditching oxers and piaffes, at 20 years of age, Kok joined Kuala Lumpur racehorse trainer Frank Maynard for one year before moving down South to Singapore to Kranji trainer Stephen Gray for another year. He then transferred his indentures two blocks away to Steven Burridge late last year, and that day he had long been waiting for finally arrived last week – he got his apprentice jockey’s licence.

One week later, his new boss entrusted him with no fewer than four rides at the inaugural Tuesday night meeting – reduced to three after Pure Spark was scratched. Such was the faith the Australian handler had in his new rookie that he backed his judgement by giving him such a healthy book of rides, including Autumn Rush, a leading chance in the $80,000 Class 3 Division 2 race over 1100m.

After an unplaced baptism of fire aboard longshot Keep The Justice where he was always at the rear (finished last), Kok did not let his best chance slip through his hands at his next assignment.

Punching Autumn Rush ($30) straight to the lead from barrier No 1, Kok exhibited great poise in the saddle despite being rather lanky for a jockey, allowing his mount to amble out comfortably and even giving him a breather midrace before letting him loose into the straight.

When the Keano five-year-old suddenly opened up to a three-length lead, it became increasingly clear the 22-year-old rider was only a few metres away from making a dream start to his fledgling riding career.

Riding hands and heels mostly, Kok did give a couple of slaps to his mount just to keep his mind on the job as he started to drift out ever so slightly, but the 50.5kgs courtesy of his four-kilo claim must have also been of great assistance as the gelding kept widening the gap to eventually cross the line by more than five lengths from Unconquered (Noh Senari) with Northern Sun (Wong Chin Chuen) third another 1 ¼ lengths away.

The winning time was 1min 5.38secs for the 1100m on the Polytrack.

“I’ve always wanted to become a jockey from the time I saw my uncle ride as a kid, but I joined the Ipoh riding club first to do equestrian riding, mainly dressage and showjumping,” said the former national Malaysian equestrian rider.

“I’d like to thank Frank Maynard, Stephen Gray and my current boss Mr Burridge for their guidance and advice but also the Perak Turf Club for giving me the motivation to become a jockey.

“Having been an equestrian rider has definitely helped me as a jockey. I’ve learned the basics there and it’s helped me with my balance now.

“But when I turned 20, I knew I had to decide between showjumping and racing as I’d be too old to become a jockey after that age. I think I’ve made the right decision.

“I’ve been in Singapore for close to 1 ½ years and it’s my home now. I don’t miss home much, but I’m very happy my mum and dad came from Ipoh to see me ride tonight – I actually told them I had a good chance in race No 7!

“I’d also like to thank the Singapore Turf Club for giving me a licence. It’s a great opportunity to be riding here against very good jockeys who also give me a lot of help and advice, like Glen Boss, Michael Rodd, Vlad Duric and (ex-jockey) Danny Beasley.

“I know I still have a lot more to learn and I will just have to continue working hard.”

Kok said the instructions on Autumn Rush were to either lead or sit second – and not to forget to make full use of his four-kilo allowance.

“The horse had an advantage with the four-kilo claim. He was in a good spot and in the straight, he just went home,” said the soft-spoken young man.

“Thank you to Mr Burridge and the owner for putting me on this horse.”

Burridge was for one rather thankful he had found himself a handy four-kilo claimer in his yard.

“Simon has been with us for three months and hasn’t put a foot wrong since,” said the Australian trainer who was extending his current lead on the log by two winners on John O’Hara (seven versus five).

“He can make the grade as a rider. It’s great his mum and dad came down from Ipoh to see him win; what’s more not many ride a winner on their first day.

“It’s also great for the owner (EZ Stable). We didn’t know if he would lead, I just told Simon if they go silly to just take a sit.

“He had no weight on his back, Simon let him stride along and they went all the way.”

The 2010 Singapore champion trainer was obviously chuffed with his flying start but knew only too well not to get too complacent with 10 months and a bit still left to go.

“Things are going well, I can’t complain. When the waves are up, you catch them and you just go with the flow,” was his simple summing up of the current good vibes.

Dalgety improves out of sight with visors on

Trainer Steven Burridge was the first to admit he made a blue when he saddled former Victorian Dalgety at his Singapore debut on January 7.

After watching the Domesday four-year-old’s past races which included one win on a heavy track at Sandown, the Australian handler declared blinkers as the headgear.

They were actually visors, which he mistook as blinkers in the TV replays. As a result, Dalgety beat one home in the Class 4 Premier race over 1400m.

Dalgety (Glen Boss) clears out for a facile victory in Race 3.

When Burridge realised his blunder, he quickly took corrective measures at his next start in Tuesday’s $45,000 Class 4 Non Premier race over 1600m: Visors were slapped on without further ado.

The difference was like night and day. While he was outpaced throughout at his debut run, he settled in midfield before rapidly closing in on leader and even-money favourite Amazing Man (Noh Senari) upon straightening.

Jockey Glen Boss gave a few shakes of the reins and Dalgety ($47) was off and gone. The Lucky Stable-owned galloper dashed clear to score by a widening margin of 4 ½ lengths over Amazing Man with Billy Britain (Michael Rodd) third another 1 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 35.56secs for the mile on the Long Course.

“When I saw the replays, they looked like blinkers to me! They didn’t have that side cut that visors have,” said Burridge, who with that win consolidates his current lead on the Singapore trainer’s premiership on six wins, one clear of John O’Hara.

“It’s only when I read they were visors that I realised why he ran so badly. Even Daniel Moor, who won on him in Melbourne and rode him at his first run here, said he was disappointing.

“But the visors switched him right back on tonight; he was a lot better. Maybe he also needed the run and more distance, and that’s why I also gave him more long work.

“The field was also weaker tonight but he’s definitely an up-and-coming horse, very promising.

“Wade (son) was the one who bought him for the Lucky Stable. He bought him for the Derby but he still has some way to go.”

Curatolo wraps up with double on Chalaza

After two winless meetings, French jockey Ryan Curatolo bounced back to the winner’s circle with a riding double on Friday night.

The former Macau-based rider began his new Singapore stint with one winner apiece (Yaya Papaya and Magic Paint) at his first two meetings, but went quiet after he fired blanks at the next two.

Curatolo was, however, back in the swing of things on Friday, when he made no mistake aboard $11 favourite Claudia’s Beauty in the $20,000 Open Maiden race over 1400m before ending the night with a flourish aboard $25 shot Chalaza in the last race, the $80,000 Class 3 race over 1200m.


Between pleasure and pain: The moment Ryan Curatolo makes a costly $500 gesture aboard Chalaza.

The US-trained hoop actually found himself in a pickle when he lost his whip as Chalaza was gaining momentum in a hotly-contested last furlong, but keeping his cool, he kept riding the Road To Rock five-year-old hands and heels to land the rewards as he kept his rivals at bay by half-a-length on the line.

Xiong Fong (Ng Choon Kiat) took second place, with $14 favourite Scorpio (Zawari Razali) given every chance but having to settle for third spot another head away. The winning time was 1min 9.82secs for the 1200m on the Long Course.

“When I lost my whip at the 200m mark, I grabbed his mane and pushed him with all my might, and luckily, he kept going,” said a relieved Curatolo at the winner’s circle.

“The horse was well placed. He was in the right spot in the race and was well trained.

“I got him balanced at the top of the straight and he produced a good effort to win.

“Things are going well for me. I’m working hard every morning and I will just have to keep it up.”

The win did not come without a hefty price for the Frenchman, though. In his exuberance, he raised his hand in a victorious salute, which was, however done just before the line, a celebratory gesture regarded as a transgression in the Stewards’ copybook and which lightened his pocket of $500.

Chalaza’s winning trainer Steven Burridge’s kind words might go some way in alleviating the pain a little for Curatolo.

“Ryan’s riding very well. He rode the horse good last start and he’s delivered tonight,” said the former jockey.

“He got him balanced right up in the straight and he timed the run very well. This horse needs to be ridden quiet, if he is too close, he plods home.

“With 57kgs on his back tonight, he was very courageous and has done a very good job.”

Raced by the Lim’s & Mark’s Stable, Chalaza was ringing up his fourth win from 13 starts for stakes earnings that have now tipped over the $180,000 mark.