It has worked well so Phar: Ong
Australian racing icon Phar Lap inspires leading trainer to race his horses often
Racing sources of inspiration can be timeless, as trainer Jason Ong showed when digging up an old Australian legend from nearly 100 years back to explain his knack at backing up horses.
Ong might not have been the current Singapore log lamplighter, had he not dared go where others fear to tread – race his horses in consecutive weeks.
At times, it was a fortnight between runs – which is still regarded as a close interval – and, at times, they do not always come off – but more often that not, the hard-knocking system works for Ong.
His haul of 41 winners for a narrow lead of three winners over reigning champion Tim Fitzsimmons is littered with such examples like Fabu, Smoke And Mirrors and, recently, Sirius, Major King and Top Field.
But the standout is Roda Robot, who raced six times in the space of seven weeks from Aug 6 for back-to-back wins on Aug 20 and 27.
The hardy Mongolian Khan four-year-old, who ran seventh to King Of Sixty-One last week, will be at it again on Saturday – for a record of sorts for workaholics: Seven Kranji starts in two months.
Ong, who honed his craft in Victoria at Marcus Oldham College, took a leaf from Harry Telford, the trainer of Australia’s most famous horse ever, Phar Lap – a winner of a whopping 37 races, including the 1930 Melbourne Cup.
“Every trainer works differently. I, for one, have always given my horses a good conditioning at their first prep,” said Ong, who assisted trainers Mark Walker, Alwin Tan and Bruce Marsh before he branched out on his own in 2019.
“It may have been a different era, but Phar Lap used to race like four times in a month.
“No doubt, the sport has evolved but, at the end of the day, they’re all horses.
“So long they pull up good, are eating well, I’m not scared to back them up. But you’ve also got to know your horses well.
“If they are fit and look mentally bright after a race, I see no reason why they can’t race week to week.
“It’s also a win-win for the owners, who get to see their horses race more often. They then have a better chance of going up in class, and carry lighter weights.”
Song Of Nature is a good case in point. After winning a Class 5 race last week, carrying 58kg, the All Too Hard five-year-old rocks up again in Saturday’s $50,000 Class 4 event (1,200m) with only 52.5kg.
“Song Of Nature has pulled up good,” said Ong.
“I’ve had this horse from Day 1, so I know him very well. Not all horses can back up, but he can.
“He’ll be up in class but he’s always been competitive in Class 4, running close on four occasions. I think he can measure up.”
For Roda Robot, the quick turnaround is on auto-pilot now – like a “robot” who just walks himself to the races week in, week out.
“Roda Robot’s pulled up good again, showing no signs of fatigue. So I re-entered him,” he said.
“He was disappointing at his last race. He travelled good but, when Tim’s (Fitzsimmons) horse (King Of Sixty-One) took off, he gave up.
“Bruno (Queiroz) told me he was overracing a bit during the first sectionals. It’s because the pace was a bit slow.
“I’m hoping that, back to the mile (from 2,000m), the pace will be quicker and he can relax better. I hope he can run on better.”
Ong’s best horse on Saturday is Akhtar, who took the more conservative three-week lead-up to the $70,000 Class 3 race (1,000m).
It is, however, more the drop from 1,200m to 1,000m that should, on paper, give the I Am Invincible five-year-old a better shot at doubling up on his debut win in a Class 4 race over 1,100m on July 15.
“Akhtar is a nice sprinter,” said Ong. “He’s got a nice draw (five) but, if someone else is quicker, he can take a sit.
“Lord’s Command is hard to beat, he’s drawn the ace. But Akhtar is a progressive horse, I see no reason why he would not be competitive.”
Ong believes Annabel Neasham’s former one-time Sydney winner (1,400m) – whose dam is 1,000 Guineas (1,600m) winner Serious Speed – is not one-dimensional.
“He was not disappointing in that 1,200m race. He ran as good as he could,” he said, referring to his last start when caught by stablemate Major King after leading.
“The better horse ran on. I’m still happy with his progress.”
Zyrul Nor Azman, his jockey in that Class 3 race (1,200m), jumps back aboard.