By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
A small chapter of Singapore’s rich racing history was written on Saturday when Kiwi Kid became the first Uruguayan-bred horse to win in Singapore.
While the name can be misleading, Kiwi Kid was born and bred in the South American country, which most people would tend to associate with football maybe, but not horse racing. After all, Uruguay are both the first hosts and winners of the first football World Cup ever held (1930).
It turned out that Uruguay has quite a thriving horse racing industry, and lo and behold, it does have a tiny Singapore presence in its midst!
The Nova Racing Stable, better remembered for his Polytrack speedster Nova Swiss, races some horses there, hence the arrival of Kiwi Kid to our shores last year.
Trainer Jason Ong himself had never heard of their racing, but when the local outfit, who already had Limited Edition with the second-year Singaporean handler, told him about training Kiwi Kid, the chance to have such an exotic horse under his charge was too hot to resist.
“Nova Racing is already established with a few horses in Uruguay. They have a bloodstock agent there as well,” said Ong.
“One day, they told me they had a one-time Uruguay winner they thought would be good for Singapore and asked me if I’d like to train him.
“The answer was yes right away! All I know is he is a sprinter and won one race over 1000m, I think, on the all-weather there, but I thought it’d be interesting to train a horse from that country.
“The Nova Racing people have supported me from Day 1, and I’m glad I’ve got a win out of this horse for them.
“I really wanted this horse to win a race for them. He didn’t show much at his first four starts, and after his last run in the last week of July, I spoke to the connections and decided to give him a short spell.
“After his long trip from Uruguay, he was a real hothead and took some time to settle down. He was lacking in race experience.
“He’s come on after the spell. I put blinkers on at his trial and he went really well with them.
“Still, today, with I Am Sacred in the race, it was very hard to be confident in his chances, but he came out really well, and Joseph See rode a very patient race on him.”
Indeed, Kiwi Kid, following his bland runs, was ignored in the market to start at mammoth odds of $578, but his Singaporean jockey rode him like he was the best horse in the race.
Positive from barrier rise, the “Uniquely Uruguayan” kept on from his middle barrier to go and sit on the girth of race-leader Winning Spirit (Ng Choon Kiat).
When favourite I Am Sacred (Ruan Maia) loomed on the outside at the top of the straight, most thought the race was a foregone conclusion, especially as the horse thought to be his main danger, Sea Dragon (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) was vanishing out of sight.
But Kiwi Kid, who had in the meantime hit the front in the home straight, surprisingly didn’t throw in the towel, dug in his heels to score by half-a-length from Winning Legend (Mohd Zaki) with Lim’s Knight (Chin Chee Seng) third another short head away. The winning time was 1min 4.83secs for the 1100m on the Polytrack.
I Am Sacred, a previous two-time winner from three starts, had every chance, but did not fire a shot when the chips were down to run seventh, around two lengths off Kiwi Kid.
Now that Uruguay has opened the scoring (and it’s not with a ball) in Singapore with its first racing pioneer, a new market could be shimmering in the horizon. Given it lies just between Argentina and Brazil, two Latin American countries that have supplied many horses to Singapore over the years, especially the former, the shipping logistics should not be much different.
“I’m not sure how Kiwi Kid was shipped over as Nova took care of everything,” said Ong.
“I think he had to transit in quarantine more than twice, but it was certainly worth the experiment.”