It's rebuilding time at Kranji
Owners may have tightened their belts but many exciting prospects have still emerged
With a gradual return to normalcy around May, the second half of the 2022 Singapore racing season, which ended last Saturday, noticeably clapped along with a new impetus and confidence.
But a few more cracks of the whip were still needed.
The appointment in September of an experienced racing administrator from Australia in Dayle Brown as chief racing officer mirrored the Singapore Turf Club’s intent to give the sputtering engine a much-needed oil change.
Resurrecting 10 feature races – including a classic, the Singapore Guineas – that were axed during the two-year Covid-19 hibernation was a commendable first step that did not go unheeded. Kranji trainers turned up in droves at recent Australian two-year-old sales.
But some purse strings had already been unleashed before.
Street Of Dreams, Mr Black Back, Cash Cove, Dream Alliance, Ejaz, Hongkong Great and Super Impact are some of the gems who joined the earlier batch of Lim’s Kosciuszko, Golden Monkey and Katak, almost debunking that myth of an ageing horse population.
The various premiership victors at season’s end are known, while votes will be cast to determine those of the equine kind.
But one fate which will not need a ballot box (even if he is in the box seat to win the supreme title), is whether Kranji’s current favourite son, Lim’s Kosciuszko, can add the cherry on the top in Hong Kong.
The 11-time winner will be hobnobbing with Hong Kong’s and Japan’s sprinting elite in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) on Dec 11.
Trainer Daniel Meagher flew out on Thursday, bags packed with big dreams and a tissue box.
But the horse with the Polish name which most uncles and aunties at Kranji cannot pronounce, will be the beacon of hope of a reawakened racing nation.
As a pre-race interlude for now, let us roll back the last five months.
Mahadi Taib hits the target for the first time with his third runner Jungle King, while Michael Clements saddles a rare quartet in Singapore with Prosperous Return, Spirit Of Big Bang, Quarter Back and Karisto on July 2.
Golden Monkey bags the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1,400m) and Paletas is apprentice Ibrahim Mamat’s first winner on July 9.
Lim’s Kosciuszko breaks his Group race duck in the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1,800m) on July 17.
Donna Logan’s apprentice, Jamil Sarwi, gets on board on July 24 at only his third ride, atop Super Posh.
Four weeks after winning the Derby, Lim’s Kosciuszko drops back in trip to take out the Group 1 Lion City Cup (1,200m) on Aug 14.
On the same day, top England-based Brazilian jockey Silvestre de Sousa boots home his first Singapore winner, Legacy Fortune. Fellow visiting jockey Mark Zahra, from Australia, also wins aboard The August.
Singapore’s Polytrack mare Celavi runs last in the Group 3 Korea Sprint (1,200m) in Seoul on Sept 4.
Desmond Koh’s apprentice Faiz Khair salutes for the first time at his 77th ride, astride Maximilian, while Hakim Kamaruddin is suspended two months for his ride on Engine Start on Sept 10.
On Sept 13, the club appoints Dayle Brown as its chief racing officer and Soo Lai Kwok as assistant vice president for the Malayan Racing Association.
After four months off from a neck injury, Nunes returns a winner with What You Like on Sept 24 while Meagher’s apprentice Fahmi Rosman wins his first race on Silent Is Gold.
Bernardo Pinheiro is suspended two months for his ride on Mr Malek on Sept 24.
He then returns to Dubai one month earlier.
Prosperous Return captures the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1,800m), an edition run in memoriam of the late monarch. The win also gives Jake Bayliss his first Group 1 success in Singapore.
Lucky Charm, Greatham Girl, South Of The River, Absolute Radiance and Prodigal give Clements his first Singapore five-timer on Oct 29.
The licensing committee reveals the list of riders for 2023 on Nov 10.
Notable absentees are Danny Beasley and Bayliss, both deciding to return to Australia.
Tim Fitzsimmons hits his first century with Foxship on Nov 13.
Ricardo Le Grange claims his first Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup (2,000m) with Hongkong Great, ridden by Melbourne Cup-winning Zahra on Nov 19.
That day, Lim’s Kosciuszko scores first-up in a Class 1 sprint.
Two days later, he gets the Hong Kong nod.
On Nov 21, the club announces the doubling of the number of feature races to 20, and the reintroduction of four series.
At the last Kranji meeting on Nov 26, Fitzsimmons, Nunes and Yusoff Fadzli are officially crowned champion trainer, jockey and apprentice jockey respectively.