By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Alysha Collett and Patrick Moloney are the latest two expatriate jockeys to have joined the growing COVID-19 induced exodus out of Singapore.
Australian jockeys Daniel Moor and Michael Rodd were the first to up stumps amid the uncertainty around the return of horse racing at Kranji since its suspension on April 7 when the Singapore government imposed a nationwide partial curfew known as “Circuit Breaker” on non-essential services in a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Both Moloney and Collett have already left on Saturday, with the former heading back to his native Melbourne while Collett, who is a Kiwi, has picked Sydney, where she rode in 2012 as an apprentice jockey, booting home 15 winners mostly for champion trainer Chris Waller. Her elder brother Jason also plies his trade there.
Like most racing jurisdictions around the world, except for the likes of Australia, Hong Kong and Japan, New Zealand racing is also suspended, although it is expected to reopen soon with the country having reportedly flattened the curve and recently announced it would lift its strict lockdown measures.
While Moor was the most proactive of the lot, leaving only a couple of days into the first week of the confinement, and is already about to start riding in Victoria with his mandatory 14-day quarantine completed on Thursday, Moloney and Collett, both 26, made up their minds around the same time as Rodd – shortly after Tuesday when the Circuit Breaker was extended from May 4 by another month to June 1.
Unlike Moor, who relinquished his licence, Rodd, Moloney and Collett, who are licensed until year-end, were granted leave of absence from the Singapore Turf Club upon request. They all indicated that the relocation was only a temporary measure to tide them over those lean times at Kranji, where the last race meeting was held on April 3.
“As soon as the lockdown was extended, I applied for leave of absence with the Club,” said Moloney who currently sits in eighth place on the log on eight winners.
“With so much uncertainty when racing will return here, there wasn’t much point hanging around without any income and draining our finances. Instead of sitting and waiting, I’d rather be proactive; after discussing with my partner Jess, I decided it was best we go home.
“There weren’t many flights to Melbourne, but as I wanted to get back as soon as possible, I took a flight with a 15-hour layover in Doha – meaning it took me 37 hours door-to-door to reach home!
“I’m always keen to keep my eye-in on racing back home. I rode for a wide range of trainers before I left, so that won’t be a big worry.
“Currently, I’m doing my 14-day isolation in a hotel in Melbourne. I’m looking at starting riding around May 12 or 14, depending on my fitness.
“When Singapore reopens its racing, I will definitely return and hope to pick up where I left off. Obviously, getting a flight back may be tricky, so it may not happen right away, but I will just have to set the wheels in motion to get back as soon as possible.”
Collett, who took a direct flight to Sydney, is also eager to get on with the life behind four walls for a little longer than two weeks, a small price to pay given the bigger reward awaiting her – being able to get back to the job she loves.
“I still have to do the two weeks in isolation when I arrive in Sydney and Racing New South Wales have requested that I do extra isolation plus have a couple of tests to say that I am negative to COVID-19,” she told the New Zealand media.
“I am definitely okay with that. The isolation will be boring but it is just nice to be in the process to potentially be back riding again.”
Collett currently sits in ninth spot on the Singapore jockeys’ premiership ladder on seven winners.
Seven expatriate jockeys still remain in Singapore, and staring at another five weeks on the sidelines at least, Australia’s Vlad Duric and John Powell, Frenchmen Marc Lerner and Louis-Philippe Beuzelin, South Africa’s Juan Paul van der Merwe and Ryan Munger and Brazilian Ruan Maia.
Furthermore, Adelaide apprentice jockey Kayla Crowther – who currently is still riding back home – was granted a three-week licence from May 31 to June 21 as this year’s Dux of the Thoroughbred Racing South Australia. The stint will now hinge on whether or not racing resumes at Kranji from June 1.