Clements puts faith in new Knight rider, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

Clements puts faith in new Knight rider

Trainer throws brand new apprentice Ibrahim Mamat in at deep end on Top Knight

Michael Clements has long backed youth when it comes to his riders.

Where others might have thought twice about putting on a rookie apprentice jockey on a live chance, especially in a non-claiming Group race, Clements often backed his judgment – and was well rewarded.

Champion apprentice Simon Kok winning the Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup aboard Big Hearted in 2020 or Clements’ own former apprentice Shafrizal Saleh repaying the faith on Starlight in last year’s Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic spring to mind.

It was Kok again aboard Tiger Roar in last year’s Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint.

But Kranji is not just littered with big-race wins to frank Clements’ homegrown talent policy. He also sponsored Chew Yong Yuan’s training in New Zealand. But, sadly, the promising rider died of cancer last year.

The newest kid on the Clements block is Ibrahim Mamat. 

The 24-year-old Malaysian has barely had his first two career rides last week, which includes a fourth on Karisto, that he was handed the reins on a topliner, Top Knight, in Saturday’s $100,000 Spanish Bay 2015 Stakes Kranji Stakes A event (2,000m).

Admittedly, Ibrahim was not Clements’ first choice on the 10-time winner. But again, two boys ended up trading places.

No doubt Kok is now a “big boy”, but therein lies the rub that led to the bold gamble on Ibrahim.

“Simon was supposed to be back from a two-week suspension this week, but his employment pass is still not through,” said Clements.

“Simon had a work permit as an apprentice jockey under Steven Burridge. But, since he got an open jockey’s licence (from July 1), he had to apply for a new employment pass through the club.

“Until it’s ready, he can ride trackwork but not in races. Ibrahim will ride Top Knight instead.”

The Zoustar six-year-old bounced back to form at his last start with Kok up, 20 months after his last win in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1,800m). 

Plumping for a greenhorn right when a horse is finally back in form may be debatable, but Clements shed some light.

“Top Knight got a 2kg penalty for his last win. With Ibrahim on, he’s 2kg better off (with the 4kg claim), albeit the 2kg equate to his inexperience as an apprentice,” he said.

“Top Knight gets back in his races and does things in his own time. He’s an easy ride for Ibrahim. Hopefully, they can work together – and we also get a bit of rain.

“If he gets a dry track, it doesn’t matter what handicap he gets, he just doesn’t perform.

“From what I’ve seen of Ibrahim, he needs to gain more experience. We have to train him up. 

“He’s done really well at his first ride as it was his first time on turf. They practise on Polytrack, it was a brand new experience for him.

“He settled the horse well and where he was comfortable. 

“He did go a bit early around the bend, which is normal, as he was anxious to do his best. 

“But we spoke with him and told him to be more patient next time.

“He grew up among horses in Kelantan. He’s spent four years with us.

“He’s a natural horseman and has a bright future here. He has good potential going forward.”

A much more experienced Kelantan-born rider stays on his second runner, Trumpy, dual champion jockey Hakim Kamaruddin.

The Argentinian-bred was a tragedy beaten when second to Top Knight in the latter’s last win.

“Hakim is back on Trumpy. He was unlucky at the 400m, he got held up and flew home,” said Clements.

“He could have been the winner. He has maintained good form and will be better over 2,000m.”