By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Tim Fitzsimmons was a hugely relieved man as he walked down from his seat to lead in his first winner as a trainer in his own right on Friday night – Mega Gold.
The Australian horseman has experienced the highs of more than 500 winners during his time as assistant-trainer to Cliff Brown in Singapore, notably several Group 1 wins with the likes of Debt Collector, Gilt Complex and Zac Spirit, to name a few.
But the feeling was just as unreal for the 38-year-old the moment Mega Gold crossed the line first in the $75,000 Restricted Maiden Division 2 race over 1200m.
Fitzsimmons received his trainer’s licence last April, and after he moved into his stables four months later with only a clutch of horses, he sent out nine runners without collecting a single placing.
Not surprised by the slow start – the fact he has also experienced just as many lows at Kranji also helped him during that long wait – given his yard had been cobbled together with mostly ‘hand-me-down’ horses in the first months, Fitzsimmons soon got a whiff of that first taste of success with two agonisingly seconds twice this year – Thunder and Mister Dynamo.
And that door was finally knocked down at his 22nd runner with $9 favourite Mega Gold, aptly under the guidance of a jockey he knows well, Brown’s No 1 rider Michael Rodd.
After a creditable debut fourth, the Giant’s Steps three-year-old was considered as a top chance to be Fitzsimmons’ account opener, and though he was some distance off the leader Unstoppable Giant (Patrick Moloney) in the first half of the race, the adrenalin rush must have gone through the roof when Mega Gold whooshed to the front at the 300m mark.
The last 250m must have felt unbearably endless especially with shades of Mister Dynamo looking home and hosed more or less at the same spot before One World denied him late, springing to mind.
But there was a much happier ending this time with Mega Gold well clear, and scoring by 1 ½ lengths from Superior Coat (Noh Senari) with Lago De Como (Wong Chin Chuen) third another three-quarter length away. The winning time was 1min 12.75secs for the 1200m on the Polytrack.
“It’s fantastic, it’s a huge relief. I’d first like to thank my parents, my former boss Cliff Brown and my wife and three kids,” said an emotional Fitzsimmons.
“It’s fitting and fantastic that it’s Michael who rode my first winner, but how can I not mention about Marc Lerner who helps me a lot with the horses and would have ridden my two horses tonight, if he was not suspended.
“I also have to say a big thank you to my staff, my track rider Anwar, and other jockeys, especially Harry (A’Isisuhairi) Kasim and Daniel Moor for their help.
“I was not overly frustrated I haven’t had my first winner. It helps that I’ve been here for so long, I was not panicking, if anything, it felt like other people wanted that first winner more than me!
“It’s great I’ve been able to repay their faith in me, especially the Gold Stable (owner of Mega Gold) tonight.
“The horse was further back than I thought, but they were going fast in front. I didn’t know how it would be for him in amongst horses, but it’s worked out well in the end.”
Rodd, who rode Fitzsimmons’ inaugural runner Petite Voix last September, was delighted for his mate, first and foremost.
“As soon as Timmy got his licence, I’ve been waiting for that moment, and I’m glad I rode his first winner,” said the Australian hoop.
“A few horses nearly got up for him a few times. Unfortunately for them, other jockeys couldn’t get that first winner for him, but fortunately for me, I got it.
“Everybody knows how Timmy and I go back a long way. He works so hard, and I still remember when he just got his stables, he had only two horses on the board.
“He did it the tough way, but he knows the system and the background. Tim can train, it was just a matter of getting the right stock.
“This horse was a nice buy from the Gold Stable. He’s still raw, and Marc Lerner is the one who has worked on him, so it’s a shame he couldn’t ride him tonight.”