By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
t’s taken 71 rides and a frustrating record of 11 seconds, at least a couple of them agonisingly close, and an astute change to frontrunning tactics on Axel for apprentice jockey Jerlyn Seow Poh Hui to finally clinch her first winner on Saturday.
The Singaporean lass – the only female rider currently licensed in Singapore, and first local to hold such a licence since Sabrina Kadir in the 2010s – was over the moon after Axel made all in the $70,000 War Affair 2015 Stakes, a Class 3 race over 1600m.
The 27-year-old Seow probably thought to her dismay it would be another case of playing second fiddle when the menacing rumble from Spirit Of Big Bang’s (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) fast-approaching hooves could be heard at the 200m.
Axel fends off Spirit Of Big Bang (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) to hand apprentice jockey Jerlyn Seow her first career win.
But April 24, 2021 would be the day the Jurong girl would not be denied her day in the sun – her first visit to the winner’s circle. Not pushing the panic button despite Spirit Of Big Bang’s proximity on her offside, Seow conjured up all the pointers she has picked up in her four-year-long apprenticeship to extract the best out of Axel.
The $30 shot luckily responded on cue with a second wind, no doubt also aided by the luxury load of 49kgs courtesy of Seow’s four-kilo allowance.
The Darci Brahma five-year-old, who ran in the money at his last three starts, all with Seow up, and ridden off the speed contrary to Saturday, showed he really ran for Mark Walker’s apprentice jockey to stoutly hold Spirit Of Big Bay at bay by half-a-length.
Green Star (Iskandar Rosman) ran third another 3 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 37.52secs for the Polytrack mile.
“I’m very excited and very happy I’ve finally ridden my first winner,” said Seow who does not hail from a racing family, but chanced upon horse racing through a local TV movie.
“It’s been frustrating to get so many seconds, 11! But I never gave up, I was never discouraged, even if sometimes, I do get scared, but I just keep learning as much as I can.
“I have to thank a lot of the jockeys who helped me with their advice. Saimee Jumaat (former multiple-champion jockey who is now a senior track rider at Walker’s yard) and (riding master) Damien (Kinninmont) also help me a lot, and (Walker’s former assistant-trainer) Gus (Clutterbuck) still sends me texts to go through my rides.
“Thank you to my boss for the opportunity and for not giving up on me, and also the other trainers for giving me the experience.”
Kinninmont was one of the first to congratulate his protégé after she weighed back in.
“I’m really pleased for Jerlyn. She works so hard, and today, she rode this horse very well,” said the Perth horseman and former jockey whose main duty is that of Chief Starter at the Singapore Turf Club.
“She never panicked when the other horse came upsides. She kept pushing and didn’t double-hit the horse with the whip like he’s done before.
“That first win can only boost her confidence from now on.”
Seow for one could not be faulted for any lack of confidence on the way she handled Axel to his fifth win. She said that she had a hunch she could be onto a good thing from the way the gelding travelled in the running.
“I normally ride this horse from the back, but today, we went forward. I was able to give him a breather, and he was very relaxed,” she said.
“At the top of the straight, I went for him, but when Beuzelin’s horse come on the outside, I was worried, but luckily, we held on this time.”
A beaming Walker, who had seldom been seen leading in his winners this season, made it a point to be the first among the reception committee to greet his apprentice jockey.
“I’m very happy that Jerlyn has finally got through for a win today, especially as she’s been knocking on the door with a lot of seconds. She really deserves it,” said the Kiwi mentor, who was heartily screaming ‘Go, Jerlyn!’ in the concluding stages..
“With the low weight, I told her to get rolling early. She was able to get a soft lead and it’s paid off.”
Axel has now chalked up a record of five wins and 14 placings for stakes earnings that have now exceeded the $310,000 mark for the Te Akau Racing Stable.