A big toast to the champions of the turf
Singapore Racing Awards 2016
As most of us had expected, DEBT COLLECTOR was last night crowned Horse of the Year at the Singapore Racing Awards - a gala event which officially brought down the curtain on the 2016 racing season.
Indeed, and it is safe to say, down to the last guest in the ballroom of the Fullerton Hotel, no one felt it could or should have been otherwise.
In their pastels of the privileged and in the opulent surroundings of the iconic hotel where champagne was the drink of choice, you had to pinch yourself lest you forgot that on any given day, the majority of those present operated in an environment of sawdust and feed buckets.
So the applause rang out for Debt Collector. Simply put, the best horse had won the race. No argument there.
Debt Collector, the urchin who was plying his trade in Class 4 just 10 months ago, was now a true racing aristocrat. Ten starts. Seven wins in a row. More than $1.3 million in the bank.
Last night was about the four-year-old from trainer Cliff Brown's yard who also picked up the "Best Three-Year-Old" prize, that for being the "Best Miler" and the honours for being the "Most Improved".
But while he shone, it would be a great injustice if we didn't turn the spotlight on the other young stars of the show.
So it was, we sneaked a peek into racing's crystal ball and saw the stars of tomorrow.
LIM'S RACER, JUPITER GOLD, MYSTIC MASTER and MAGNUM were just some of precocious youngsters who were nominees for awards - and all were deserving.
Lim's Racer would eventually steal the crown for "Best Two-Year-Old".
While some had been earmarked for greatness from the day they were "dropped", others will continue to rely on the help of trainers - the men and that lone woman who have it in them to turn those sow's ears into silk purses.
Yes again. Most of the names mentioned weren't the finished product. Watch them grow as the best is yet to come.
Then there was QUECHUA.
Like Custer's horse at Little Bighorn, the six-year-old still hear bugles when he steps out on racedays.
Last night, we honoured him.
Long in the tooth but still kind and true and great to have in your yard.
Then there were the "other awards". Alwin Tan received his for being the top trainer - and what a year it has been for the Singaporean.
And the Lims from, well, Lim's Stable. With their powerful string of horses, they were always a shoo-in to claim the Owner's prize.
Rightfully so, last night was their night. To people like them, horse racing isn't just a release from the harsh, everyday business world, but its continuation and apotheosis.
Manoel Nunes' excellent work in the saddle was also acknowledged as was young CC Wong who bagged the Apprentices crown.
All said and, while the pageantry played out in the ballroom, perhaps it's timely to remember that this game still lives on dreams and, while the pageantry played out at the ballroom, the "king" and the other true stars of the evening were being bedded down in their stalls at Kranji - dreaming, perhaps, of their next date with destiny.
To them, a toast.