By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Reigning Singapore champion trainer Mark Walker snared two victories when racing resumed following a three-month Covid-19 interruption on Saturday at Kranji Racecourse in Singapore.
After Hadeer (Savabeel) fought hard for second following a tough trip on pace over 1000 metres, another Singaporean debutant, Ronaldo’s Dream (3 g Darci Brahma – Sweet Dreams Baby), went one better with a dominant performance in the $75,000 Restricted Maiden 1100 metres for Te Akau apprentice Hakim Kamaruddin.
Later in the piece, Admiral Winston (3 g Declaration of War – Montclair) went on to win the $30,000 Class 5 1000 metres to ring up the double.
Both Hadeer and Ronaldo’s Dream are owned by Fortuna NZ Racing Stable managed by John Galvin while Admiral Winston races in the Te Akau Racing colours.
Educated and prepared by Te Akau’s New Zealand trainer Jamie Richards before transferring to Walker, Ronaldo’s Dream produced two strong trial efforts for fourth and second, respectively, in July last at Te Rapa, which led to three comparable race performances including a last-start second in October at Taupo.
“His trials weren’t that great on the Polytrack, but I actually trialled him again deliberately during the week to get him used to the kickback a bit more,” said Walker, of Ronaldo’s Dream.
“He was panicky about it in his first trial, so I think the key to him winning was trialling him again on Tuesday even though he was racing on Saturday.
“He’d made good ground when getting out wider in his trial and he’s done that again to beat a really strong Restricted Maiden field. He’d had race experience at home in New Zealand, too, and I think that held him in good stead as well.
“He was ready to race just before we went into lockdown, so he’s been here a while and had the benefit of extra time to acclimatise.
“Full credit to John (Galvin), he’s smart in what he does with his horses. They realised after three runs he wasn’t a Group horse at home, and would probably mature into a nicer older horse, but John places his horses to maximise prizemoney for his owners. So, instead of winning a $10,000 – $15,000 Maiden he’s now won a $75,000 Maiden which is around $82,500 NZ at the moment.”
Ronaldo’s Dream was acquired by Galvin at the 2018 Karaka Yearling Sale for NZ$80,000 out of the draft of Phoenix Park.
“Ronaldo was a horse I had liked since I first saw him as a weanling at Te Akau Stud. Fortuna had previously acquired his two full sisters, Darci’s Dream and Windborne, both stakes winning fillies and we had also acquired his half-brother, Colorado Prince (by Alamosa), also a race day winner here in NZ,” said the Fortuna Director.
“So, we knew the family well. Not a natural 2yo, we took Ronaldo along quietly before giving him his race day debut at Matamata in August, where he ran fifth on a heavy track, that was followed by an improver’s run for fourth at Ruakaka and then a fighting second at Taupo.
“Clearly, he had ability, however the stable view was that he still lacked maturity as a spring 3yo and was unlikely to be competitive in the top 3yo races.
“Accordingly, we recommended to his ownership group that he go to Singapore to race. The Syndicate Members agreed and now they have been rewarded with this nice result.
“I want to acknowledge that David and Karyn Ellis bred this horse (they were also the breeders of Darci’s Dream, Windborne and Colorado Prince) and a big thanks to them for putting him up for sale. A big thanks also to trainer Mark Walker and his team for producing Ronaldo’s Dream in great order and thanks to Hakim for a great riding effort.”
Walker expects Ronaldo’s Dream to keep improving. “Like a lot of Darci’s (Brahma) up here, they get better with time and some age on them. He’s a sound horse and he’s got the potential to win a fair bit more,” he said.
Bred by David Ellis CNZM & Karyn Fenton-Ellis MNZM, by champion sire Darci Brahma (x Danehill), whom Ellis purchased, and trained by Te Akau to win five Group 1 races. Ronaldo’s Dream is from a Van Nistelrooy (Storm Cat) mare that has now left six individual winners of 11 races, including dual stakes winning filly Windborne (x Darci Brahma) and Group 1-placed and stakes-winning filly Darci’s Dream (x Darci Brahma), both also owned by Fortuna and trained by Te Akau. It has proven a very successful cross.
Ronaldo’s Dream is raced by the Fortuna Ronaldo’s Dream Syndicate, an ownership group of 51 Members, 16 of whom were brand new to the Fortuna family when they took shares in this syndicate.
Walker also has plenty of time for the second-placed Hadeer.
“We bought him from Lindsay Park, when they dispersed him through an Inglis Digital Sale,” he said. “I always do a lot of study on those sorts of horses and full credit to John (Galvin) again. He’s not shy about having a crack at horses like him.
“Even though he’s by Savabeel, and no disrespect to that great stable but I think he’s more of a sprinter/miler. They had tried to make him stay and I’m not sure he would, but he showed plenty yesterday over 1000 metres.
“Although he was three wide near the pace, it was the place to be. The fence was racing a touch heavier than the outside, so he was in the right part of the track.
“A lot of horses, too, that we target, we know they have the pedigrees to improve with age. Even those that have been tried in Australia, where they have such a heavy focus on two-year-old racing, sometimes we look to buy horses that we think should improve with time and maturity.
“We can pick them up at reasonable prices, too. Hadeer was $22,500 at the Inglis Digital Sale, after being bought as a yearling for $620,000, and he’ll win more races up here for sure.”
Later in the programme, Walker saddled Admiral Winston (3 g Declaration of War – Montclair) to win the $30,000 Class 5 1000 metres. From barrier nine, he skirted wide in fourth under Benny Woodworth, making the home bend awkwardly, but charged to the line nearly three lengths clear.
The winner of three from 11 had been racing in good form and Walker rated him a top-four contender.
“He’s been a frustrating horse, after showing a lot early,” said Walker. “He went through a growing stage and started doing a few things wrong in the barriers and being late-scratched one day.
“Even yesterday, he did a bit wrong again. He wanted to run straight at the half-mile instead of going around the corner.
“But once he puts it all together he’s going to be a lot better than what he’s shown so far, because he’s getting stronger now. He was up 17-kilos in bodyweight, yesterday, which shows his maturity.
“We bought him at the (2018) Gold Coast Yearling Sale. He was passed in, but I like Declaration of War and although Dave (Ellis) and I wasn’t at the sale, we got Clint Donovan to have a look at him for us.
“He wasn’t too expensive, and we got him for $30,000. He’s owned by Dave’s great client Ronald Lau.”
Admiral Winston carries a Danzig (Northern Dancer) cross as the grand-sire of Declaration of War, through War Front, and the Danehill line of dam sire Rock of Gibraltar.
Reflecting on the time away from racing, Walker said: “It’s been a frustrating time for everyone. Not just here in Singapore, but New Zealand and everywhere around the world. It’s unprecedented times.
“There wasn’t much of a crowd because only the owners with horses racing could attend, but they weren’t allowed in the parade ring and segregated from the trainers. It was certainly a lot different and the Club is taking every precaution possible to keep racing going.”
The winner of three premiership titles in Singapore, alongside five previously in New Zealand, Walker is currently second on the table this year (23 wins) and one behind the leader.
“Michael (Clements) has such a strong team of horses, so he’d be the favourite to win the trainer’s title this year. But there’s a long way to go yet and the competition is good,” he said.