Ong to bounce back from blip, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

Ong to bounce back from blip

Champion trainer counts on another big team to get over forgettable Kranji Mile day

A day at Kranji without Jason Ong winning a race is like Manchester City goal poacher Erling Haaland not hitting the back of the net at least once a match.

Unfortunately, even the best slip up once in a while, as Ong found out at his expense on May 18. The powerful yard misfired despite sending out yet another formidable strike force.

The best result the reigning Singapore champion trainer could muster was one second and four thirds from his squad of 19 horses, half of them leading chances.

In 20 meetings put astern in 2024, Ong has had only two blank days – the opening day on Jan 6 and two weeks later on Jan 20.

A heady run over 16 weeks has now been halted by a third duck’s egg.

No doubt it is just a blip, but to the young trainer, who turned 36 one week earlier on May 11, it still rankles.

Of all the meetings on the Singapore racing calendar, that rare off-day had to come up at one of its most prestigious – Kranji Mile day.

He did not field a runner in the $1 million Group 1 race itself, but October ran unplaced in the sister race, the Group 2 Singapore Guineas (1,600m).

Odds-on favourite Pacific Vampire inexplicably crumbling at his third start took the cake, but Ong said that the negative vibes were more about the overall team’s failure to rise to the occasion on that special day.

“We had a few placings, but it was a frustrating day. The Kranji Mile is a big day and we were desperate to win on such an occasion,” said Ong, who always has large groups of owners in attendance.

“In horse racing, the more you want something, the less likely you’ll get it.

“I’m still proud of the team. They’ve worked so hard to get the horses well groomed on the day.”

Like everybody else, he was a bit left dumbstruck by Pacific Vampire’s first defeat, but he has already gone back to the drawing board.

“That last run didn’t work out well, he was disappointing, but we’re still learning about this horse. After all, he was only at his third start,” he said.

“In Australia where he was trained by Mark Newhnam, a very good trainer, he won all his three races over 1,000m and never won over 1,200m.

“So, it was a big achievement for him to win over 1,200m (at his second start) here.

“I still want to get him to the four-year-old series, especially the Silver Bowl (June 9).

“He’s just leading and sprinting now. I want to keep him relaxed and let him switch off and reserve some energy for the last bit.

“I hope I have enough time to get him to 1,400m. I still have a chance, I’ll try my best.”

For this week, Ong’s first priority is to get back on the winning trend, as he heads into the May 25 meeting with another squad of 19 horses.

As usual, they are well scattered across the 10 races, including his duo of Roda Robot and So Hi Class in the $70,000 Class 3 race (1,800m).

Four-year-old and frequent flyer Roda Robot is stepping up in class while the more seasoned So Hi Class is in the right grade and over the right trip.

Ong has also elected for a change of rider on Roda Robot despite the seven-time winner’s solid first-up win under Marc Lerner in a Class 4 (1,400m) on May 12.

“Marc would’ve been the ideal choice, but with the step-up in distance, having a light weight helps,” said Ong of the son of Mongolian Khan.

“Jerlyn gets along nicely with Roda Robot and won twice on him before. The 2kg weight relief is also a big advantage for him over 1,800m.

“When he first raced, he was quite immature. The blinkers were meant to make him focus more.

“As he got to absorb more racing experience, he has become a lot more mature. He doesn’t need blinkers any more.”

At eight years of age, Irish-bred So Hi Class may not have as much scope for improvement, but the nine-time winner by Dark Angel is Ong’s Mr Consistency.

“He’s a good bread-and-butter horse. He always does well in Class 3, but above that, like Class 2, he finds it tough,” he said.

“He’s consistent enough and he has his chance over 1,800m. He’s a seasoned horse and knows what to do, especially with TH (Teck Huat) Koh.

“He galloped him last week and he’s fit and ready. He’s run mostly over a mile, but as he gets older, the 1,800m suits him.”