By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Singapore turned out to be one of the winners celebrating at one of the most coveted two-year-old feature races in the world, the A$1.5 million Group 1 Neds Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield, Australia on Saturday, through its surprise winner Tagaloa.
Well-known Singaporean owner Jayven See and Ultima Racing own a 10% share in the Australian-bred son of Japanese champion sprinter Lord Kanaloa. The remaining shares belong to a large bunch of Australian owners, including John O’Neill, who used to race a few horses with Michael Freedman at Kranji in a not-too-distant past.
If one digs deeper, the fact that the winning trainer is Trent Busuttin along with partner Natalie Young gives an additional local flavour to the victory. Busuttin is the son of former Kranji-based Kiwi trainer Paddy Busuttin, and was his dad’s right-hand man for many years in Singapore before he went his own way in New Zealand, and then Cranbourne, Melbourne.
But the real Singapore resonance comes with See and Ultima, who had its Chief Executive Officer, Dato Dr Nicholas Ho (pictured on top) on hand at Caulfield for the historic moment. See did not make it as he is currently attending the 38th Asian Racing Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, but the Middle Kingdom boss didn’t fail to wake up early in the morning (they are nine hours behind Melbourne) to watch the race ‘live’ on Racing.com.
“This is amazing. We are the first Singaporeans to have a share in a winner of the Blue Diamond Stakes,” said See.
“I’m so glad I convinced Nicholas to go to Caulfield. He was actually in two minds between Cape Town and Caulfield, but I told him you can always attend another racing conference, but you never know when you’ll get a chance to have a runner in the Blue Diamond.
“I just spoke with Nicholas and he was speechless with stage shock! It’s not my first overseas Group win, as Rock ‘n’ Pop won the New Zealand 2000 Guineas in 2011, but I’m glad he was there to experience it.
“This is the project we want to do at Ultima – bring people to racing, and not only Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Hopefully, with Tagaloa doing us and Singapore proud on the world stage, people will realise we can live the dream anywhere.”
An A$300,000 purchase at the Magic Millions Yearling sale last year, Tagaloa – which is the “supreme ruler” in Samoan mythology – did not come cheap, though, but with as many as 18 shareholders chipping in, the game becomes less onerous.
“Trent and I spotted him at the Magic Millions sale on the Gold Coast last year. We both liked him, and as I already knew Trent through Shane Baertschiger, and he trained some horses for us, I sent the horse to him,” said See.
“I woke up early to watch the race on my phone, I thought he had a chance today. Trent actually had another filly Letzbeglam who won the Blue Diamond Prelude, and who was more fancied, but our boy turned out to be better today.
“We skipped the Magic Millions race, as we had always targeted the Blue Diamond for him. This is a stallion-making race and his value as a stallion prospect will shoot up after today’s win, especially after he beat a Godolphin colt, Hanseatic, whom people spoke so highly of.”
Ridden by Tim Clark – a late replacement for regular partner Luke Currie who was injured after a fall at Moonee Valley on Friday – the Anthony Freedman-trained Hanseatic (x Street Boss) was undefeated in three runs going into the Blue Diamond and looked all poised to gobble up Tagaloa (Michael Walker) when he came off a cosy rails-hugging run at the top of the Caulfield straight.
See, Ho along with the other owners must have felt a placing would be still a great result for their brave colt at that moment. Tagaloa (25-1) had to endure a much tougher trip three wide without cover, with stablemate Letzbeglam (Brett Prebble) and leader A Beautiful Night (Linda Meech) on his inside.
But galvanised by Walker (another Singapore side-note; the former New Zealand whiz kid rode for Busuttin senior as a 15yo at a short Kranji stint in 2000), those Japanese genes responsible for two Hong Kong Sprints (2012 and 2013) and one Yasuda Kinen (2013) kicked in, and the son of Lord Kanaloa repelled Hanseatic’s challenge by a head for a most memorable win for See and Ultima Racing