Walker wins third premiership in Singapore

Mark Walker (seen here in an archived photo) has trained 73 winners this season.

Via Jeff Dore, Singapore Turf Club

Te Akau trainer Mark Walker claimed his third title as champion trainer in Singapore, following the completion of their racing season on Sunday, December 8 at Kranji.

Although runner-up Michael Clements closed the margin with three wins on the programme, he remained eight shy of the 73 attained by Walker, who dominated throughout, leading by 21 in October, and able to coast home with reserves on horses for next season which recommences on  January 1.

Recording his third title, alongside wins in the 2015 and 2017 (record 87 wins), Walker ended the previous season in fourth place on the premiership table and the leading Kiwi trainer, while also finishing second and third since setting up stables in 2010 at Kranji Racecourse. Also the winner of five training premierships in New Zealand, Walker is a world-class trainer, capable of making his mark in any racing jurisdiction worldwide.

“It was over a long way from home,” said Walker, referring to having established a winning buffer. “We’ve had horses freshening up and there are quite a few horses that should start off well in the new season because they’re back in the right grade.

“Some of those horses could have won another race if we’d pressed on, but you have to give them a break at some stage and rather than run them right through to the end of the season I took the option of spelling. They’ll be ready to win again in the New Year.

“We lacked Group horses through the year but I’m hoping some get a bit stronger and measure up. Particularly Sacred Croix, who was a bit unlucky in the Singapore Gold Cup and the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge. It would be nice to get more major wins next season.

“But, premierships are not easy to win in any country and that’s now eight, with five in New Zealand, and three here, so that’s the highlight – winning another premiership.”

Walker said he planned to celebrate with staff and have a ‘good lunch’.

“Both the staff and horses are having a freshen-up and we’ll be raring to go come January 1,” he said.

“Gus and Karen (Clutterbuck) and I have worked together for 16 years and that was our eighth premiership, so that’s pretty special in itself.

“We’re all happy here. Singapore is a lovely country to live in and we’re very lucky to be in such a safe, well run, country. It’s a nice lifestyle up here.

“There is zero tolerance to crime and I think a lot of Western countries could take a leaf out of their book and make the deterrence on crime a lot stronger. And through that, the world would be such a better place to live in.”

Once the new season is underway, Walker has scheduled a trip a home to join Te Akau principal David Ellis and trainer Jamie Richards leading into the New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sales Series (January 26 – 31) at Karaka, while in the interim also attending the Magic Millions Yearling Sale on the Gold Coast (January 8 – 14).

Walker has obviously created an enormous impression in his second home, and privy to his successes has been Singapore Turf Club journalist Mike Lee.

“Mark is the consummate professional and horseman,” said Lee. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that he has won three premierships in his nine full seasons in Singapore. Well done and well deserved!

“Granted, he enjoys the backing of a powerful outfit in Te Akau Racing in New Zealand, but he has also built up a strong base of local owners over the years, with the likes of Elite Performance Stable and Dato Yap Kim San’s Raffles Racing Stable, to name a couple.

“Anywhere in the racing world, a good turnover of horses is a key factor in winning premierships, but you also need to be a great trainer and Mark is no doubt one of the finest we’ve ever had at Kranji.

“It is a well-known fact that Mark has been more dominant with the bread-and-butter horses over the years, but give him an above-average horse and you can rest assured his Midas touch will come to the fore.

“Elite Invincible did propel him into the limelight with a few feature race wins last year, including his highest acclaim in the Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m). Before that, the other horses to put him on the map were (Polytrack Horse of the Year) Flying Fulton and War Affair as a juvenile.

“What I personally appreciate in Mark is his meticulous approach to training. He leaves no stone unturned, and never rests on his laurels.

“Even if he’s had a big day at the office the day before, he is always at the stables the next morning to run his eye over each and every horse whether it is a Class 5 horse or a Group 1 horse. And, at the barrier trials, he is the only trainer I know who records his horses’ runs on his smartphone, to communicate later with owners.

“Mark is a rather reserved person who prefers to keep to himself, especially at trackwork, and focus on his horses. For instance, you would seldom see him at the trainer’s hut (or the breakfast area as it’s commonly called) in the morning, but personally, I have always appreciated his readiness to give an interview.

“Mark is very comprehensive, detailed and open about his horses, whether they are going well or they’ve met with some issues. Again, that is to me the hallmark of his true professionalism.

“When Mark first arrived in Singapore, he himself admitted he was just a country boy who was taking a huge leap of faith to walk away on a highly-successful career in New Zealand, to start from scratch in a foreign land, but though you can never remove the Kiwi in him, he has adapted very well to the local conditions here. He is a real asset to Singapore racing.”

Like so many, Walker was given a start in the racing industry by Ellis.

“From day one, he stood out as a leader in every respect,” Ellis said. “He was a great show jumping rider and a genius with what he can get a horse to do.

“When he was only 26 years old he had trained the favourite for a Melbourne Cup and not only is he an extremely good judge of a horse but he’s the best trainer I have ever seen in preparing a horse to peak for its main target. He’s a great horseman.

“Mark understands the importance of keeping horses happy in order for them to do their best and seems to have an unbelievable way of understanding the individual characteristics of each horse.

“I think that’s why he’s so successful. That, plus he’s such a hardworking and professional guy. He’s always working and thinking about how to get the best out of the horses he trains.”

Author: iRace