Via Sharon Zhang/Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Newly-licensed trainer Jason Ong made a fairytale start to his training career with a first winner at his very first runner on Friday night.
Wearing his name very well, Sothistheone was indeed the one to give the young Singaporean handler his very first hurrah at his first day at the office, causing a bit of an upset ($70) in the $20,000 Secret Win 2017 Stakes, an Open Maiden Division 2 race over 1400m.
Currently the youngest trainer in Kranji at 31, Ong on Monday took over the string of horses trained by Bruce Marsh after the New Zealand handler bade Singapore farewell with a fitting finale from pet horse Supernova at his last Kranji meeting last Sunday.
A four-year-old son of Shaft previously trained by James Peters, Sothistheone did give Ong a feeling he could be on to a flier when he broke well under jockey A’Isisuhairi Kasim to go and track up leaders St Alwyn (Vlad Duric) and Household Dynasty (Alysha Collett).
Into the straight, Household Dynasty faded, but St Alwyn was still holding sway, while Sothistheone and $9 favourite Spirit Of Big Bang (Joseph Azzopardi) began to give chase.
The trio locked horns stride for stride, with Sothistheone in the centre poking his head in front to get up in a thrilling blanket finish that his handler will probably hang together with his countless photos of the Ongs’ (Warplan Racing Stable) champion War Affair at home.
The winning margin was a short head from Spirit Of Big Bang, who beat St Alwyn by a similar margin while the winning time was 1min 23.54 secs for the 1400m on the Short Course.
Ong, who has led in many winners during his assistant-trainer days, be it for Marsh or for Mark Walker and Alwin Tan, especially during War Affair’s heyday, was pinching himself as he welcomed his first winner as a trainer in his own right – and at the very first stab to boot!
“My heart is still racing now!” said Ong who was surrounded by his ecstatic family members.
“It’s a good start, and I thank all the staff for the good work, and also the owners for having faith in me by leaving their horses in my care. This horse came to us in good order and we were expecting a good run.
“Harry rides a lot of trackwork for me and Bruce, so we’re happy to have him on board.”
Having partnered Sothistheone three times before, A’Isisuhairi thought the gelding had improved from his previous runs.
“He feels like a totally different horse tonight,” said the Kelantan-born rider of his 17th winner of the season.
“We wanted to run him the other day, but we were not happy with his gallop back then.
“He is the type of horse that has not put things altogether yet, but tonight, he was much more focused on his run.
“The 1400m suited him, and I’m happy to get a first win with him.
“Jason has done a good job training the horse. Good for him to get his first winner.”
Sothistheone has finally got off the mark at his 19th start at Kranji after having placed six times, taking his earnings close to $100,000 for the Mike and Anthony Stable.
Ong would certainly be happy with his only other runner for the night, Dragonite, who went on to finish a creditable fifth to Vesontio in the $30,000 Quechua 2014 Stakes, a Class 5 Division 2 race over the Polytrack mile, but deep down, was probably hoping for a perfect score, a sure sign of a man who doesn’t sleep on his laurels.
“It was a good run from Dragonite. Funnily, a lot of people said I should feel less pressure after the first winner, but I actually still feel the pressure,” he said.
“You still want to maintain the momentum with every other runner, but all in all, it was a great start to my training career.”