By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Even if some may say it’s been a season of ups and downs, the 2019 Singapore racing season has yet again produced thrilling moments and stirring finishes aplenty at Kranji.
In a climate laced with uncertainty in the wake of the bold but necessary changes brought about to prizemoney, ratings, subsidies, the Singapore racing fraternity has rallied together and risen to the occasion with a product of the highest standard and integrity, qualities that we have proudly upheld as the hallmark of our racing industry for decades.
No doubt the challenges, both external and internal, have made the going tough throughout a year best summed up as one of transition. The rising prices of horses on the Australian/New Zealand market or the many departures of some of our top jockeys for so-called greener pastures didn’t help our cause are just some few examples.
But the advent of exciting new young blood like I’m Incredible, Inferno, Surpass Natural, Field Marshal, to name a few, is testament to the gallant effort made by owners to open their wallets and keep our racing on the move. While many racing fans deplore the loss of the likes of popular jockeys Glen Boss, Barend Vorster or Nooresh Juglall to other skies, we opened the doors to new talents in our riding ranks such as Ben Thompson, Joseph Azzopardi and Louis-Philippe Beuzelin.
Our training brigade has also not escaped that rejuvenation process. Two have left, David Hill and Bruce Marsh – and we again wish both a happy retirement – but no fewer than four new faces have strengthened up the ranks – Jerome Tan, Jason Lim, Jason Ong and Tim Fitzsimmons.
Tan, Lim and Ong have all got off the starting blocks with a decent haul of winners while Fitzsimmons, who began later and also started from scratch, has yet to taste success but it shouldn’t take any longer for Cliff Brown’s former assistant-trainer to do so in the new 2020 season.
More reforms are in store at the dawn of that new season, such as the shift towards more Saturday meetings versus Sunday meetings and the earlier Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge (February to April). The reception from participants has generally been warm, which augurs well for the future.
But let’s not put the cart before the horse, shall we, and let’s just enjoy that well-earned break after a long and arduous campaign, even if the prep toward the New Year Cup meeting is already nearing full swing!
While we reminisce on our year gone by through this quick recap of the 2019 season, we take this opportunity to wish our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in 2020.
January 1 – Constant Justice (Glen Boss – Mohd Yusof) kicks off the new season by landing the Group 3 New Year Cup (1200m).
January 10 – Long-time Kranji resident jockey Barend Vorster breaks the surprising news he is moving to Adelaide, Australia to continue his riding career.
January 21 – Elite Invincible is voted 2018 Singapore Horse of the Year at the annual Singapore Racing Awards. Lee Freedman (trainer), Vlad Duric (jockey), Troy See (apprentice jockey) and Lim’s Stable (owner by stakes) and Lucky Stable (owner by wins) are the other champions honoured.
February 6 – Blizzard (Daniel Moor – Lee Freedman) wins the Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1400m).
March 1 – South African jockey Juan Paul van der Merwe gets off the mark with Loving You.
March 3 – Ganassi hands South African jockey Callan Murray his first win at Kranji.
March 8 – Trainer Jerome Tan saddles first winner with Heavenly Hand.
March 27 – Former jockey and former Racing Victoria riding master Matthew Pumpa is appointed as jockey coach.
April 1 – The Singapore Turf Club implements three new initiatives; the restructuring of subsidies and incentives; the revision of feature race prizemoney; and the adjustment to Class Rating Bands.
April 5 – The first Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, the Group 3 JBBA Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) is captured by Bold Thruster under jockey John Powell for trainer Shane Baertschiger.
April 7 – The Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m), which was moved from March 3 to April 7, 2019, is captured by Debt Collector for jockey Michael Rodd and trainer Cliff Brown.
April 10 –Nooresh Juglall wraps up his five-year stint at Kranji and returns to his native Mauritius to continue his riding career.
April 12 – Joseph Azzopardi rides first Kranji win on Drone at only his second week. Mikki Joy (John Powell) leads a Shane Baertschiger 1-2 in The New Paper Cup, beating stablemate Blue Swede by a nose.
April 26 – Tim Fitzsimmons and Jason Lim unveiled as new trainers at Kranji.
May 3 – Top Knight takes out the second Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) for Vlad Duric and Michael Clements.
May 5 – Barend Vorster returns to Singapore for pitstop ride and lands the Group 3 Rocket Man Sprint (1200m) with Bold Thruster for trainer Shane Baertschiger.
May 5 – Elite Excalibur (Ben Thompson – Cliff Brown) wins the Group 3 Moonbeam Vase (1600m).
May 16 – Australian Hall of Fame jockey Glen Boss announces he is returning to Australia after the Kranji Mile. Boss was at his fourth season at Kranji.
May 25 – The second renewal of the Invitational Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) again goes to Hong Kong raider Southern Legend, for the same Zac Purton – Caspar Fownes combination. Aramco wins the Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) for Vlad Duric and trainer Shane Baertschiger’s first Group 1 success. Duric makes it a feature double with the Michael Clements-trained Top Knight in the Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m).
May 28 – A few days after running fourth in the Kranji Mile, 2016 Singapore Horse of the Year Debt Collector is retired from Singapore racing to start a new racing career in Australia. He will later be renamed as Debt Agent.
May 31 – Jason Lim saddles first career winner West North Hill (Koh Teck Huat).
June 9 – Visiting Adelaide apprentice jockey Raquel Clark wins the newly-created Group 3 Silver Bowl (1400m), the first Leg of the revamped Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge, atop trainer Cliff Brown’s mare What’s New.
June 22 – Lim’s Cruiser runs eighth in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) at Royal Ascot.
June 30 – Three weeks later, the same What’s New completes two Legs in the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1600m), but with Ben Thompson in the saddle this time.
July 13 – Lim’s Cruiser runs sixth in the Group 1 Darley July Cup (1200m) at Newmarket.
July 19 – Inferno (Michael Rodd – Cliff Brown) lands the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m). River Radiance gives trainer Mok Zhan Lun his 200th win.
July 21 – The Lee Freedman-trained Sun Marshal hands Perth jockey Joseph Azzopardi his first Group 1 win in the Singapore Derby (1800m).
July 26 – Lee Freedman reaches his first Kranji century with Excelling.
July 28 – Leading apprentice jockey Simon Kok Wei Hoong wins his first Group race with the Leticia Dragon-trained Star Emperor in the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m).
August 4 – Australian jockey Patrick Moloney, who is at a one-month stint, rides first Kranji winner aboard Diamond Ring.
August 6 – Trainer Stephen Gray hits the 700-win mark with Larry.
August 9 – In an amazing coincidence, Majulah scores on National Day at Singapore’s 54th birthday. Kiwi jockey Alysha Collett returns a winner with Bluestone after her Singapore stint was interrupted by injury late in 2018.
August 14 – South African jockey Callan Murray cuts short his Singapore stint and returns to South Africa.
August 16 – Comeback jockey Joseph See returns to winner’s circle with Basilisk after serving long ban.
August 18 – I’m Incredible (A’Isisuhairi Kasim – Shane Baertschiger) takes out the Group 3 Committee’s Prize (1600m). French jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin rides his first Kranji winner with the Alwin Tan-trained Universal Empire.
August 25 – After close to two barren years, Countofmontecristo (Daniel Moor – Michael Clements) bounces back to the winner’s circle in the Group 2 Merlion Trophy (1200m).
September 15 – Fourteen years after his first Kranji win, incredibly in the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby with Hello And Goodbye, veteran trainer Bruce Marsh retires from training and returns to New Zealand. Marsh bids farewell on a winning note with Supernova, one of his favourite horses.
September 20 – Five days later, Marsh’s heir apparent Jason Ong bags his first winner at his very first runner – Sothistheone. Galileo’s Approach hands trainer Shane Baertschiger his 400th Kranji win milestone before his day gets even better with I’m Incredible (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) winning the Group 3 Ultima El Dorado Classic (2000m).
September 22 – French jockey Marc Lerner claims his first Group 1 win in the Raffles Cup (1600m) with Makanani for his No 1 supporter Hideyuki Takaoka. Three-time Singapore champion jockey Manoel Nunes flies in from his Mauritius base with a winning cameo appearance on Limited Edition.
October 1 – Bold changes announced for Singapore Racing Fixtures in 2020. More Saturday than Sunday meetings and Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge moved earlier to February-April.
October 5 – 2016 Singapore Horse of the Year Debt Collector unplaced at Australian debut at Flemington under the name of Debt Agent.
October 20 – I’m Incredible (Vlad Duric – Shane Baertschiger) scrapes home in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m).
November 3 – In town to launch a new exchange programme between the Singapore Turf Club and Racing Victoria (Simon Kok Wei Hoong will later reciprocate the deal with a one-month stint in Victoria in December), Melbourne apprentice jockey Jessica Eaton scores first Singapore win on Snip.
November 8 – Fame Star (Marc Lerner – John O’Hara) wins the Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m).
November 10 – Mr Clint hands trainer Lee Freedman his first Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) win and a second hurrah to Melbourne champion jockey Craig Williams (after Bahana in 2016). On the undercard, the unbeaten Inferno (Michael Rodd – Cliff Brown) wins the Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes (1200m).
November 15 – Trainer Michael Clements clocks in his 600th Kranji winner with Prime Time.
November 17 – Jockey Joseph Azzopardi cuts short his Singapore stint to return to Perth for the Summer Carnival. He rides a winner at his farewell meeting, outsider Buuraq for main supporter Michael Clements.
November 19 – Australian jockey Ben Thompson announces he will not take up the one-year licence granted to him for the 2020 season. He will be replaced by fellow Victorian jockey Patrick Moloney.
November 23 – The Kranji Mile is granted International Group 3 status.
December 1 – Kranji-based Australian jockey John Powell represents Singapore at the annual Mauritius International Jockeys’ Weekend. He rides one winner at Day 1 on November 30, Carlton Heights, but is unfortunately stood down at Day 2 on December 1.
December 8 – Pennywise (Vlad Duric – Ricardo Le Grange) wins the last feature race on the calendar, the Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes (1600m). The last day sees the crowning of Duric as Singapore champion jockey for the third consecutive year while the other titles go to trainer Mark Walker (his third after 2015 and 2017) and apprentice jockey Simon Kok Wei Hoong, who incidentally rides his first winner in Australia, Inner Demons for his new masters David, Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig, at Tatura in country Victoria. Three days later, Kok rode his first metropolitan winner, Pierrless at Sandown