Mahadi gets off the mark early
Newly licensed trainer saddles his first winner on Saturday with his third runner, Jungle King.
Mahadi Taib was a man in a hurry, notching his first winner as a trainer in his own right in just his second outing on Saturday.
He had made his debut with Qaraat last Sunday but his charge finished sixth.
The 50-year-old Singaporean has, for a long time, been the unsung hero who worked tirelessly behind the scenes as assistant trainer to Michael Clements, Theo Kieser and John O’Hara, among others.
When $117 outsider Jungle King clinched the $30,000 Class 5 race over 1,200m at Kranji, Mahadi could finally savour his own special moment of glory.
The wait had not been too long, as the Makfi five-year-old was only his third runner since he received his trainer’s licence from the Singapore Turf Club one month ago.
But behind the quiet facade lies a steely determination to succeed from the get-go.
Bitten by the racing bug while growing up as the son of a syce in Bukit Timah, the rather media-shy (thankfully not as extreme as one of his former bosses, the notoriously private Mohd Yusof), Mahadi is the sort who would rather let his horses do the talking.
But it appears he wanted to make an early statement.
“I was a bit upset after Qaraat got badly checked in the running last week,” he said, obviously still smarting from the unplaced finish.
“But I’m happy Jungle King won. I knew he had a good chance to win, but I would’ve been more confident if he didn’t bleed before.
“This horse is a second-time bleeder. He’s moved stables from John O’Hara to Jason Lim; we had to keep nursing him.
“He ran a good trial two weeks ago and he was looking fit. He won and that’s great. He’s given me my first win at only my third runner.
“I’ve led in many winners as B trainer, but this is different.
“This horse ran under my own name. I put in a lot more effort and it’s a lot more satisfying.
“The owner (Ma Yaw Kiang) has been around for a while, but decided to support me.
“It was great to see him coming down to lead in my first winner together with me.”
Mahadi had an earlier runner, Bright Era, who ran second two races before his watershed moment.
His newcomer, AJ Golden Sixty-One, finished last in the final event.
Mohd Zaki rode both horses.
Jungle King, who formerly raced as Try Mak Mak, was always in the firing line.
He was never going to get beaten once he collared the race leader, Knight Love (Bernardo Pinheiro), on straightening.
As an interesting anecdote, Jungle King’s memorable win felt like deja vu for both trainer and jockey.
Ronnie Stewart also supplied Kieser with his first winner, Win Lots, 12 years ago, on May 2, 2010.
Mahadi, who had just left his main mentor Clements to join the South African, was in the lead-in photo that day.
“I worked with Theo from Day 1. I remember Ronnie rode his first winner Win Lots. I was there,” he said.
“I don’t have many top horses for now and it’s not easy to book Ronnie. But he often rides work for me and I’m glad I was able to get him on Jungle King.”
The Australian jockey would also like to believe he was a lucky charm for rookie trainers.
“It’s always good to give a trainer a first winner. I remember I also gave Theo Kieser his first winner. Theo’s a good friend of mine,” he said.
“This horse trialled nicely, but had a few niggling issues. I didn’t have a chance to get aboard.
“He put in a few good runs at the trials and put the writing on the wall today. As much as he was first-up, he was well prepared.
“Let’s hope I can get a few more winners for Mahadi.”