With only 12 meetings left in the 2023 season, trainer Jason Ong has a fight on his hands to stay on top on the Singapore trainers’ log.
The young Singaporean conditioner currently leads the premiership on 41 wins, but with 2022 champion trainer Tim Fitzsimmons just two behind on 39 wins, Ong will have to find plenty to hold off the gun Australian conditioner to the wire.
This Saturday, Ong has nominated 20 runners, including Major King and Ocean Crossing in the $85,000 Class 2 race (1200m) on the Polytrack.
Of the two, Major King looked well-placed with only 52kgs on a surface that he has won five times and placed twice in seven starts.
The five-year-old son of Per Incanto lumped 58.5kgs at his last win in the Class 3 race (1200m) on 9 September. With the rise in class this time, Ong noted that the drop in weights was significant.
“I think the light weight would definitely help him,” said Ong, who attained his season’s best finish with a fifth on the trainers’ log on 33 wins last year.
“(Jockey) CC (Wong Chin Chuen) will ride him as (jockey) (Manoel) Nunes can’t make the weight, but he’s (Wong) riding in great form.
“It’s a good race and I think Illustrious is the horse to beat. His trial (Illustrious) the other day was very smart (finished first in trial no. 3 on 28 September in the time of 59.59secs).
“But Major King pulled up really well from his last start and we gave him a quiet trial (finished third in trial no. 2 won by Reignite on 26 September) to keep him ticking over.
“Hopefully, we get a good draw and some luck.”
Of his other runner in the Polytrack sprint, Ocean Crossing, Ong was happy with his new charge, but will learn more about the All Too Hard eight-year-old after his first run for him.
“I haven’t had him for long,” said Ong of the gelding, a new transfer from trainer Michael Clements.
“We got eight or so from Mike and he (Ocean Crossing) came into our stable in very good order.
“At his ratings (85), this race looked like one he shouldn’t miss. I know from his record that he is versatile, but I will learn more about him after this race and reassess where we go from here.”
Another interesting nomination from Ong’s – albeit an Emergency Acceptor and not guaranteed a start on Saturday – was Akhtar, who will be tried on turf for the first time in Singapore in the $75,000 Class 3 race over 1400m.
“Firstly, I hope he gets a start!” quipped Ong of the I Am Invincible five-year-old.
“His only win in Australia was over 1400m (in a Maiden race on 9 October 2021) and he showed it when he eventually got cover at his last start that he could run home well (finished third to Renzo in a Class 3 race over 1000m on 30 September).
“He’s a big, strong horse and eats well, so backing him up over this trip was not a problem.”
Ong will also saddle King Zoustar in the same race and was more than happy to think that a stable favourite can figure in the finish.
“Not many horses are as tough as him and that’s why we love him,” he said of the eight-year-old by Zoustar.
“He gives 110% in every race but while he could find it hard to win over seven furlongs, he gets on well with (apprentice jockey) Jerlyn (Seow) and her claim (three kilos) will help for sure.”
Ong will also be hoping to add to his 2023 tally in the $20,000 Open Maiden race over 1000m, where Nature Chief looked to be a serious chance on his exposed trial form.
“He’s a really nice horse,” said Ong of the Time Test four-year-old, who will be ridden by jockey Koh Teck Huat on debut.
“I bought him through (bloodstock agent) Andrew Campbell in New Zealand where he won three trials, so he has obviously shown ability and trialled well here too (finished first in trial no. 1 on 28 September in 1 min 0.53secs).
“He’s a laid-back type of horse and has a bright future but 1000m on Saturday looks like a good starting point.”
By Larry Foley, Singapore Turf Club