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Harry has a new Ace up his sleeve

Group-winning jockey is hoping his next top-draw horse is unbeaten 3YO Sabah Ace

Many jockeys claim they can sniff up a Group winner, but only a few actually have this gift.

A’Isisuhairi “Harry” Kasim may not be the most experienced jockey around, but he does draw trainers and owners’ attention when he spots a champion.

Maybe it is his days as a young boy riding bareback in his native Kelantan that has imparted in him that natural horse sense.

But, going purely on black-and-white racing facts and figures, his record of nine Group wins in 11 years at Kranji does suggest he must have some idea.

When the 37-year-old first sat on a three-year-old from David Kok’s yard in 2022, he felt goosebumps only the likes of Mr Malek, I’m Incredible and Minister made him feel before.

Three starts later, Sabah Ace is still undefeated, with the last two victories, both in Class 4 company, forged under A’Isisuahiri’s guidance.

At the latest in the $50,000 Countofmontecristo 2019 Stakes Class 4 Division 2 race over the Polytrack 1,200m on Saturday, the Malaysian hoop reiterated his high praise of the son of Swiss Ace.

“I’m really excited about Sabah Ace. I’ve not had anything special in my hands lately,” he said.

“I liked the way he moved from the first day I started working on him. David told me that, if he does everything right, his target would be the Three-Year-Old races.

“Michael Clements has offered me one ride, which was nice of him, but I’d rather concentrate on this guy.

“The way he won his second race (Jan 7) from Restricted Maiden to Class 4 confirmed he was a decent horse. I knew already he had a good engine.”

While the three-in-a-row was widely expected, the win was anything but served on a silver platter.

Rounding the home turn, he was a touch further back than he was at his last win. But the end result was the same once he let rip.

The rough edges were still visible from the way the odds-on favourite ($8) wobbled in and out under pressure at the 200m.

But his clear superiority saw him home by ½-length from Nate’s Champion (Amirul Ismadi), with Ciango (Matthew Kellady) third, another 3/4-length away.

The winning time was 1min 12.4sec.

A’Isisuhairi conceded the beaten brigade may not amount to the best benchmark if Sabah Ace were to be cranked a few levels up, but he still had plenty of upsides.

“The more race experience he’ll get, the more confidence he’ll have,” he said.

“The barrier (nine) was not ideal, but I was confident he had the ability to win. He’s such an easy horse to ride.

“I was only concerned when David told me he was not 100 per cent. Apparently, he’s not a good eater, and David was pushing him to get ready as the connections (Royal Sabah Turf Club) were coming that day.

“But, when I worked him, he seemed fine to me. Besides it was not a really strong Class 4 race, and I rode him like the best horse in the race – and, obviously, he was.

“I just got him to travel and, at the top of the straight, he offered me everything he had.”

The East Malaysian outfit did not come down for more winning photos thereafter.

From their three other runners, they would have been happy enough with Sabah Star and Lord Justice’s seconds, while Easylights ran last.

Win, lose or draw, Kok’s post-race debrief would be just as comprehensive for each runner, but plans were probably discussed a little more in depth for Sabah Ace.

With all three legs of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge run on turf, an unknown surface for Sabah Ace thus far, and the first leg (Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint over 1,200m) due on April 8, Kok cannot afford to have a one-trick pony.

“I have high hopes on this horse. I’ll test him on turf next time. But I’ll see how he pulls up and, more importantly, whether he puts on weight,” said Kok.

“After his second win, he was not feeling well, and not eating well. I was worried when his weight dropped.

“I wasn’t worried about him being far back in the race, as he doesn’t have the pace to go with the leaders early. He needs to run over longer.”

A’Isisuhairi echoed the same sentiments, distance-wise.

“I keep telling David that from the way he moves, he’ll get 1,400m and the mile later on,” he said.