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Kellady not free fallin’ any more

Singaporean jockey’s nosediving win tally bounces back up after Saturday’s thriller

Matthew Kellady was the last jockey to be led into the Kranji winner’s box in 2022.

After a long season, the Christmas break could not have come soon enough as the underrated Singaporean rider and Big Green Hat sauntered back to scales.

But the big grin would fade fast. He is the second-last jockey to visit the Kranji winner’s box in 2023.

Kellady got a quieter time than he had bargained for after December – another 11 weeks and 42 rides before he greeted the judge again.

Going into Saturday’s meeting, he was with South African Calvin Habib the only two with a duck’s egg next to their names.

He could have stayed on the starting grid for another week if not for Free Fallin’ ($32) having a longer neck than Endless in the $30,000 Class 5 race (1,600m), handing him victory by a head.

Like jockey like horse; the Shane Baertschiger-trained Free Fallin’ was also ending a long run of outs.

Uncannily, the last hurrah of the half-brother of Baertchiger’s former handy sprinter-miler Blue Swede on July 3, 2021, came at the expense of the same Endless, and by an almost identical margin.

The slew of coincidences do not end there. Kellady had another lean spell in 2021, and no prizes for guessing the thirst-quencher on March 14, 2021 – Free Fallin’.

The Ipoh-born jockey remembers that race vividly.

“Free Fallin’ finished like a rocket over 1,200m that day,” he said.

“I know this horse very well as I’ve now ridden him to all his three wins. He’s no superstar, but he was very gutsy on Saturday.

“I’m glad I got my first win. I can’t thank Shane and the owner (Hi Vis Racing Stable) enough for putting me on this horse.”

The 43-year-old’s sheer relief – he had been spared the unenviable mantle of “last man standing without a win” – was palpable.

More so when he had come within a whisker of the elusive ice-breaker more than once.

“The week before, I nearly won with Hardcore,” he said.

“That would have been a big surprise, but Hardcore is a horse who unfortunately often pulls up when he hits the front too early. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated.”

Kellady was not exactly brimming with confidence about his book of six rides – all for Baertschiger – on Saturday.

But, if there were to be a few who could kick the monkey off his back, he put Free Fallin’ in that bracket, notwithstanding a recent surgery.

“I went in with some sort of confidence even if he had a wind correction before,” he said.

“So far, he’s been pretty good, he makes no sound. He did a great job to get there in time.”

Kellady knows full well one swallow does not make a summer, especially as he does not really go chasing for rides elsewhere.

Putting all his eggs in one basket – Baertschiger, in his case – does narrow down his opportunities, but not when the stable is on song.

Stalled at one solitary winner (Italian Revolution) until the week before, Baertschiger has in one fell swoop leapt to four winners with Red Ocean on March 12 and a double from Free Fallin’ and Shanghai Star ($19) on Saturday.

“I ride mostly for Shane. I don’t do much trackwork outside as there are a lot of jockeys floating around these days,” said Kellady.

“Shane also had a slow start. But now that the stable’s finding form, things may go well for me, too.”

Kellady is, however, looking forward to a non-Baertschiger ride this week – Minister for Donna Logan in the $300,000 Group 1 Raffles Cup (1,600m) on Saturday.

The 2021 Kranji Mile winner has become a staple of his since their winning combo in a Class 2 race (1,600m) in November.

Granted, they have not won again in three more outings, but Kellady puts the slump down to the US-bred’s quirks.

A barrier trial win last Thursday may suggest that their chemistry is heading the right way.

“He has a mind of his own. He hates horses around him,” he said.

“You have to let him be himself and not drag him back for cover.

“I was happy with the way he trialled. They wanted a good blow.”