Last dash to Kuah's century
Singaporean trainer unsheaths Last Samurai and other weapons in search of milestone
A Kranji double from War Warrior and Maximilian on Sept 10 edged trainer Kuah Cheng Tee’s all-time tally to 98 winners.
The former jockey needs to net just two more winners to reach that significant milestone in his six-year-old training career.
Not that he was hung up on the magic three digits as the be-all and end-all.
Like most trainers more worried about chasing the next winner, Kuah was oblivious to that looming record. He does not keep track of such statistics.
Besides, having already ticked the Group 1 box at only his second year with Forever Young in the 2017 Singapore Guineas and then the Group 2 Committee’s Prize with the same horse, the first century pales in comparison.
But, when told he was still two shy of the landmark figure after another 43 runners went by in six meetings, Kuah was a little surprised by the stalling period – and seemingly keen to put it to bed once and for all.
“It’s been so long? I didn’t even know I needed two more winners,” he said.
“It’d be nice if I can reach my 100th winner at the last meeting (this Saturday). I’ll try my best.”
Kuah could not pinpoint a standout from his six starters and one reserve starter (War Warrior).
But he was sporting enough to come up with a trifecta of chances – the all-American trio of Last Samurai, debutant Golden Charger and Winning Power, in that order.
Should he end the season on 99, he is gravitating towards Last Samurai as his last 2022 winner – and 11th for the year.
Tested over a variety of trips from 1,000m to 1,600m, the four-year-old son of First Samurai has been pigeonholed as a speed squib who paddles in the concluding stages, regardless of distance.
Kuah would love to silence his detractors, and is even adamant the mile is his go.
“Some people think he always punctures late. He’s actually a one-paced horse, and to me, he’s a 1,400m-1,600m horse,” he said.
“If you’re good enough to beat him, you’ll beat him. He’s already met a few who’ve been good enough.
“This kind of horse is quite common, but although he’s still keen, he doesn’t overrace anymore.
“You can see he’s settled better at his last three starts, especially the day he ran second with (Bernardo) Pinheiro (Sept 24 when beaten by the smart Silent Is Gold).
“This week, he drops back to 1,200m (of the $50,000 Class 4 Division 2 race) because there was no 1,400m race for him.”
Kuah has already mapped out the riding instructions for Louis-Philippe Beuzelin.
“I will tell the jockey to race forward. But, because there is some speed inside, he may have to take a seat beside them,” he said.
If Last Samurai is again put to the sword, unknown factor Golden Charger may step up to the plate.
The Carpe Diem two-year-old is still raw, but Kuah, who still rides trackwork, has felt an engine there.
Racing in the same colours as Forever Young, Golden Charger lines up in the $75,000 Restricted Maiden race over 1,200m.
“He’s the only unraced horse I have this year. He’s got potential,” said Kuah.
“He had a few gallops, but he still needs to learn. At his trial three weeks ago (Nov 3), it was more of an education to the line.
“I think he’s better on turf. The plan was to run him in a turf race next January as the Hong Kong owner (Wong Chi Tat) wants to come over.
“But I saw this 1,200m RM race on turf this Saturday, and suggested to the owner to run him there instead. I expect him to go well.”
Kuah does not need to score brownie points, though. Wong has been with him from Day 1, through thick and thin, and has even pledged further support despite the uncertain times.
“Mr Wong bought three new yearlings in Keeneland. They’re getting broken in in US now, we’ll see how they go,” he said.
Kuah is under no illusions he has seen the back of better campaigns, but does not think 2022 was his worst either.
“It’s been tough for everyone. All the trainers are fighting for a living,” he said.
“With one-day racing per week, everyone is fighting for fewer races, meaning fewer chances to win.
“It makes racing here so tough and competitive, that’s why I consider my 10 winners this year as a good score.”