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Ong’s five-star New Year’s day

Champion trainer, whose zodiac sign is the dragon, gets his ‘year’ off to a fiery start

Chinese horoscope predictions are not necessarily kind to those whose zodiac sign matches up with that of the current year.

Born in 1988, Jason Ong is a Dragon. But, in his case, it would seem that the stars have aligned on its second day on Feb 11 – five stars to be precise – Starboy, Pacific Charm, Pacific Hero, So Hi Class and Wins One.

Going into the Fortune Bowl meeting with a strong hand of 20 runners, the reigning Singapore champion trainer ended up equalling his Oct 21, 2023, record of five winners.

Ironically, Ong’s most auspiciously named runner Prosperous Return was left out of the party in the Chinese New Year feature itself, the Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1,400m).

To be fair, the $356 shot’s task to thwart an imperial Golden Monkey second-up from a long spell was near-impossible.

A new personal best was missed, but five winners still made for a bountiful harvest on any given day.

The big haul also took Ong’s 2024 tally to 12 wins, stretching his lead in the Singapore trainer’s log to four wins clear of Richard Lim.

“I couldn’t have hoped for a better way to usher in the new year,” said a delighted Ong.

“It’s all thanks to teamwork and Bruno Queiroz, who helps me a lot. The Chinese New Year celebrations will be even bigger tonight.”

While Ong himself could not have foretold such a result, the short quotes for the first three winners – Starboy ($17), Pacific Charm ($13) and Pacific Hero ($17) – suggested a good day was on the cards.

And when So Hi Class ($39) rolled $15 favourite Black Storm in the $70,000 Class 3 race (1,600m) and Wins One ($31) upstaged even-money favourite Last Supper in the last race, the $50,000 Class 4 Division 1 race (1,200m), it just became one of those buoyant days when even Prosperous Return’s closing eighth was a feelgood factor.

“I thought Prosperous Return ran a nice eighth, considering the rushed preparation he had,” he said. “It’ll be a nice kick-off point towards other big races later.”

Of Ong’s high-five, two were on their maiden wins for him, the Pacific Stable duo transferred to him after trainer Michael Clements quit in September.

But to their new handler, the journey meant more than the destination, be it short (Pacific Hero) or drawn out (Pacific Charm).

Pacific Hero was an A$1.05 million (S$868,000) yearling purchase who won one race in Australia as Psychiatrist.

But, though always speedy, the well-bred Exceed And Excel four-year-old did not quite live up to the hype at Kranji, not to mention he also bled.

He raced only once for Ong after serving his mandatory three-month bleeding ban.

He beat one home, but Ong learned enough from that run to hit the nail on the head second-up in the $50,000 Class 4 race (1,000m).

“Horses teach us a lot. I made a mistake at his first run, and things did not go to plan,” he said.

“He’s a real sprinter, but I didn’t condition him enough.

“I took my time and reconditioned him and gave him a few trials. Today he put on 13kg and he was a lot fitter.

“He’s a horse with other problems. He’s dry-coated and is a bleeder, and is just not comfortable with himself.

“But, he clearly has ability and he showed it today.”

In contrast, it has taken Ong nine runs to suss Pacific Charm out. His patience was finally rewarded with a win from the Maurice five-year-old in the $30,000 Class 5 Division 2 race (1,200m).

“This horse has always had speed, but he had some issues when he came to us from Clements,” said Ong.

“I’m glad they’re over now, but I had to train him a bit differently. It seems to be working.

“Vlad (Duric) knows this horse and gave him a nice positive ride.”

While Starboy’s (Manoel Nunes) second consecutive victory in the opener – the $30,000 Class 5 Division 1 race (1,200m) – was the day’s best bet to many, Ong said So Hi Class and Wins One’s victories did not really catch him off-guard.

At eight, Irish-bred So Hi Class is, to Ong, always a force to be reckoned with when he drops back to the right class.

“This horse has been at the top of his grade and is always a winning chance back to Class 3,” he said.

“I like the way he is going. It was not an easy field, but Bruno put him in a good spot.

“I was worried about Wins One on the grass, but Bruno told me not to worry. The horse ran well.”