Regarded as one of Singapore’s brightest riding talents, Noh Senari brought up a century of winners on Friday before making it 101 with his pet horse Coming Through on Sunday.
The gifted Singaporean jockey was over the moon as he was led back to scales. Having begun his career in 2011, the big haul might seem to have taken a long time to reach, but life has not always been a bed of roses for the young man.
As promising as he was from the day he booted his first winner, Incredible Son for trainer Mok Zhan Lun on March 4, 2011, his career went through a chequered passage, and even went pear-shaped.
At his sophomore year, Noh put his career on hold as he had to serve National Service, but he straight away bounced back in 2014 to rack up his best season as an apprentice jockey on 30 winners, finishing runner-up to A’Isisuhairi Kasim.
But Noh then went AWOL for disciplinary reasons. After falling out with former master Michael Freedman, the self-confessed former bad boy missed out two full seasons (2015 and 2016), but realising he had not lost the hunger, he straightened himself out (with former Singapore champion jockey Saimee Jumaat sitting him down for some tough talk) and hasn’t looked back since.
Graduating as a senior jockey last year, Noh banged in 34 winners to finish sixth on the Singapore jockeys’ premiership, second only to Benny Woodworth among the locals.
Noh was finally a household name to reckon with at Kranji. The new milestone had the 28-year-old overcome with joy as he unsaddled from a horse he described as his current favourite, a big wrap for someone who won twice on the mighty Waikato at his rookie year in 2011.
“This is my 101st winner. I wish it was my 100th as he’s my favourite horse, but Coming Fast is also a nice horse, and I won’t be too picky!” said Noh who was, however, ringing up only his fourth 2020 winner due to a minor injury that delayed his season.
“It’s been a long road to get there, but it’s been well worth it. I battle with my weight, but the hard work is paying off.
“I had my first ride in 2011, but I was away for NS and spent two years out of racing, not to mention I missed out some months in a few seasons. So all up, I rode only for around four and a half years, which means my average is a bit more than 20 a year, which is not too bad.
“It’s fitting I rode my 100th and 101st winners for Desmond Koh, as he’s now my biggest supporter. I can’t thank him enough, and I also have a special word for Saimee, who gave me plenty of advice when I was trying to resurrect my career.
“My weight is still my biggest worry, but I’m working on it and it’s paying off. I’ve got a gym routine now and I’m pretty happy with the results, though I don’t think getting down to 55.5kgs on Friday went too good; I’ll stay at 56kgs for now.”
Noh has now been aboard Coming Through at three of his five wins, missing out on the other two because of the light weight with Joseph See and Louis-Philippe Beuzelin deputising successfully.
“This horse is exactly as how Louis correctly described him – a true gentleman,” said Noh.
“I work him every morning, and he’s a very smart horse. While Rocket Man used to stand still for a long time before he got to work, Coming Through could walk on and on around the tracks until I tell him ‘come on boy, let’s get down to work now’.
“He always listens to my commands and in his races, he just does everything you ask him to do. Today, he got bumped twice at the start, but he got over it and responded with a strong kick when I peeled him to the outside in the straight.”
Sent out as the $16 favourite, the El Hermano four-year-old indeed enjoyed a cushy trip smothered up behind leaders Man Of Mystery (Ng Choon Kiat) and Burkaan (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) in the $70,000 Class 3 race over 1200m on Polytrack, before being bustled for his charge to the wire upon straightening up.
Taking a gap in between Burkaan and Wolf Warrior (See), Coming Through skipped clear by two lengths as he ducked back onto the fence at the 200m mark. The swoopers were descending thick and fast, but he held them comfortably at bay to score by three parts of a length.
Beau Geste (Hakim Fakaruddin) won the battle for the minors, a head from Salamence (Tengku Rehaizat), who himself beat the fast-closing Elite Conquest (Marc Lerner) to third place by only a nose. The winning time was 1min 12.8secs for the 1200m on the Polytrack.
Koh, who is currently riding on the crest of a wave, said the galloper raced by Singapore Derby-winning owner Tan Huat (the Koh-trained Chase Me in 2012) owed the win to a brilliant ride by Noh. Despite copping some bumps at the start, Coming Through lived up to his name and was able to jostle for a perfect position in transit.
“Noh got him to sit in a tactical spot where he could make their move at the right time. The horse was really tough and gutsy to the line,” said the Singaporean conditioner.
“Everything panned out well. He’s not a big horse, he’s nothing much to look at, but I think I may move him up to 1400m from now on.”
Which means Coming Through, whose five wins have all been recorded on Polytrack, will have to race on turf, a surface he was tested on only once last October in a Class 4 event, with inconclusive results. Koh said they could not put a pen through that performance as he was only at his third start then, and definitely not as mature as he is now.
Noh said he was not the trainer and had no intention of having any say in that area, but he was quite certain a venture beyond 1200m will not come a cropper.
“I believe he can go over a longer distance. I think he has a very good lung capacity,” he said.
“But I don’t know where he’s going next, I’ll leave that to the boss. He’s my favourite horse, and I’ll just ride him where they want him to go.
“It definitely felt good to be back on him today and I’d like to thank the trainer and everybody who have been riding him in trackwork and in his races, too.”
Incidentally, Koh was at a weekend treble after Coming Fast (another Tan Huat) scored on debut on Friday night, and Sun Formation ($25) scored earlier in Sunday’s opener, the $30,000 Class 5 Division 1 race (1400m).
The big score took Koh’s 2020 tally to eight wins, enabling him to leap to just outside the Top 10. After gradually finding his feet from a slow start, Koh is currently the highest-ranked local trainer, one behind Jason Ong.
To the US-trained handler, who had gone through a few lean years with some ageing gallopers in recent seasons, there is no other key to winning races: The old must make way for the new.
“We’ve been doing a lot of shopping. Our shop is still in business,” he said succinctly.
With that fifth win under the belt, Coming Through has in only eight starts (which also produced a third place) already amassed close to $150,000 in prizemoney for Tan Huat Stable.