Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
US bloodstock agent Melvyn Ezekiel has bought many good horses for Singapore owners over the years, but Fame Star is the one to give him a few more goosebumps these days.
The bold frontrunner has been an absolute revelation in 15 starts, winning six times and finishing out of the placings only twice.
After the US-bred Twilight Candy four-year-old won at his last start on October 20 at Class 2 level in his typical style of breaking the hearts of his rivals, he has earned his first shot at Group glory in this Friday’s $400,000 Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m), and will have a keen spectator in Ezekiel in the Kranji stands.
It’s always a buzz for any buyer to see the horses they picked out from the sales ring go on to win a big race down the road. Ezekiel is no different even if he has already experienced that joy with previous purchases like Speedy Dragon and Maximus winning ‘black type’ races, but he has a bit more of a vested interest this time.
The Singaporean-born Californian-based agent not only bought Fame Star at the famous Ocala two-year-old sales, but also part-owns him under the Kadima Stable with brother Michael (also based in the US) in partnership with Constance Cheng’s Toast Trusts Stable.
Ezekiel has also owned shares in smart horses like Emerald Hill and Flash Gift under the Saratoga Stable in the past, but he has not won any silverware yet.
“We bought Fame Star as a two-year-old at Ocala. He came late, no-one knew much about him, but Michael liked him,” he said.
“We were fortunate to buy him for only US$40,000, which was cheap given the sire Twirling Candy now has a standing fee of US$50,000.
“I told Stephen Crutchley (John O’Hara’s assistant-trainer and Cheng’s racing manager) he was a good horse who should go up to Class 3, and as we know he’s won up to Class 2 now.
“You need to go slowly with him as he’ll go much better as a four, five or six-year-old – if he stays sound.”
Ezekiel said there was an abundance of quality buys begging to be snapped up from the US breeding barns, especially those bred for speed.
“If you can get the right horse, American speed is lethal,” he said.
“I bred Speedy Dragon and Rapido Star, who are full brothers (by Safe In The USA out of Yen), and Emerald Hill and Golden Brilliant were two other brilliant sprinters.
“Other good horses I bought are Maximus, Flash Gift and Forever Young. Unfortunately, the timing of the Singapore Three-Year-Old and Four-Year-Old Challenges don’t suit our horses as they are Northern Hemisphere-breds.”
With Fame Star’s regular partner Simon Kok Wei Hoong suspended for careless riding, a new rider had to be booked, with in-form French jockey Marc Lerner the one to land the plum job.
The only query is the 1400m trip which he could not conquer in two starts – a second and an unplaced run, but O’Hara is rather bullish it won’t pose a problem in the EW Barker Trophy, a race he won with Glider Line in 1998 when then known as the Silver Cup.
“He ran twice over 1400m, and ran second once, but these runs came at his first prep,” he said.
“He had a break since and has come back a different horse. He has more stamina now and the 1400m won’t be a problem.
“The good thing about this horse is his high cruising speed and he can still find a little bit more at the end.
“The barrier will be crucial, but he is a horse who can also sit or he can come across, roll along and take a soft lead. He’s pretty versatile.
“He’s actually bred for speed and reminds me a lot of Emerald Hill, which Melvyn also owned.”