Return of crowds a pleaser
Kranji gathers speed halfway through season with the reopening of doors to public
With the slow clatter of hooves on the tarmac and the distant clang of the blacksmith’s hammer onto the anvil as the only signs of life left, Kranji has suddenly turned into a sleepy village.
The hustle and bustle of horses galloping at full pelt around the track, jostling for position amid the roar of the crowd, has hushed down with the 2022 racing season coming to a close last Saturday.
The dust, grass blades and Polytrack kickback alike, has settled and both horses and their human minders can enjoy a well-deserved break until the new season starts on Jan 7.
It is now time for a quick rewind of the season’s highlights.
Some may bring back a smile or two, others may bring back tears, both of joy and pain.
But after the industry was brought to its knees by Covid-19 and the ensuing pandemic’s ravaging knock-on effects, 2022 marked the breaking of a new dawn.
It will go down as the year racegoers returned to Kranji on April 30, around two years since the green wrought-iron gates were locked shut on April 3, 2020.
The uncles are still not back in droves but the sight of losing tickets strewn over the grandstand floors at the end of a race day was, for once, not an eyesore.
Betting turnover seems to have crept back to pre-Covid-19 levels and, while the patient is still not out of ICU, many tubes are off.
Trackside, the flux of racing talent has gone on unabated, even if, at times, it felt like Groundhog Day with the same usual suspects going around because of a drop in horse population and race meetings.
But whether it is 650-odd horses or 48 meetings, Kranji was still the stage for spectacles to remember.
Here is a round-up of the first six months to a two-part series of the year that was:
The new partnership between New Zealand owners Fortuna NZ Racing and fellow Kiwi Donna Logan gets off to a flier with King Arthur at the first meeting on Jan 2.
Comeback jockey Manoel Nunes gets right on the front foot at his first day with a four-timer on Jan 8.
Trainer John O’Hara loses his appeal against the severity of a $55,000 fine for five positive swabs. Instead, he gets a one-year ban and a $25,000 fine.
Jockey Tengku Rehaizat is suspended two months for his ride on Cizen Lucky on Jan 15.
Six-in-a-row for Lim’s Kosciuszko on Feb 2, the second day of Chinese New Year.
Due to Covid-19, the Singapore Racing Awards winners for both 2020 and 2021 are announced on Feb 8, with Inferno and Lim’s Lightning the two big winners.
Bizar Wins hands Malaysian apprentice Akmazani Mazuki his first Singapore win on Feb 19.
Nunes brings up a five-timer on Feb 26.
Australian jockey Jake Bayliss opens his Kranji account with Nate’s Honour and Rocket Ryane.
New Zealand trainer Stephen Crutchley saddles his first Kranji winner, Mesmerizing, on March 5.
Fellow newbie Richard Lim follows suit with Metal World on March 13.
Lim’s Kosciuszko’s unbeaten run extends to eight on March 26.
Lucky Jinsha makes it a five-in-a-row (first two recorded in 2021) on April 2.
He is the first horse to put trainer Tim Fitzsimmons on the map in 2022.
Still no access to the racecourse for the public, but owners are back in on April 9.
Amirul Ismadi is suspended four months for his handling of Resurgence on April 17.
Kranji reopens to the public on April 30. Comeback jockey Ronnie Stewart picks the right time to get off the mark with Charger.
Oscar Chavez is suspended three months for his ride on Sousui on May 14. On appeal, he is given another two months. Brazilian jockey Bernardo Pinheiro opens his account with Pennywise and Sky Eye.
The Group 1 Kranji Mile is captured by 2021 Singapore Horse of the Year Lim’s Lightning, handing jockey Wong Chin Chuen a first Group 1 win on May 21.
On the same day, John Sundradas is disqualified one year and fined $20,000 for his ride on Salamence.
Fitzsimmons wins his first Group race with Golden Monkey in the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1,200m) on June 18. On the same day, Wong boots home Be You for his 200th winner.
Four-time champion Vlad Duric returns with a bang by claiming the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1,600m) atop Relentless on June 26, also giving Fitzsimmons a second feature within a week. On the same day, Shafiq Rizuan is disqualified one year for his ride aboard Flak Jacket.