This is the season to be thankful
Fingers crossed, things will improve and the turnstiles opened to the faithful next year
It was not the year we wanted it to be. But, given the situation, it was not all that bad.
Like other racing jurisdictions worldwide, Covid-19 took a toll on us. So far, there has not been a vaccine to cure – or stem – those racing blues. But the Singapore Turf Club never wavered.
It worked with what it had and racing rolled along for 11 months.
There were bumps on the road. Like when some big-name trainers packed their bags and left our shores. Jockeys, too. With racing reduced to just one day a week and, with a maximum of 12 races, they sought greener pastures.
To them go our best wishes.
Lee Freedman and Cliff Brown returned home to Australia. Mark Walker just announced his departure to return to New Zealand.
Given their pedigree, we know their careers will flourish.
Same, too, with the jockeys.
Vlad Duric, always a fan favourite, decided to call it a day. There were health issues and we hope it has all been arrested.
For personal and professional reasons, Benny Woodworth, who made a name for himself through hard work and sheer tenacity, packed up and left for Mauritius.
He has since secured a three-month stint in Dubai and will be back riding at Kranji in April.
John Powell, a household name and long-time staple at Kranji, called it quits and retired. We wish JP all the best.
Then, there was the Brazilian Ruan Maia. He was on an upward swing when lured away by the bright lights of Hong Kong.
So far, it has not been all that glamorous. But, with his talent – which was on display at Kranji in seasons gone by – it can only get better.
For all that Singapore racing has lost, we’d like to believe there is that silver lining. Already, we have seen a glow. The glitter will come.
The season just concluded gave us a preview of big things on the horizon from the training and riding ranks.
Years from now, when old-timers gather at coffeeshops to talk racing, conversation will swing towards a young Malaysian from the kampungs of Kelantan, who took the season by the scruff of the neck.
Not only did Hakim Kamaruddin emerge as Top Apprentice, but he was also crowned Top Jockey, beating Danny Beasley, 59 to 52.
Hakim rides with the exuberance of youth – which is to be expected as he is just 23.
The racing world is just opening up for him and, if he can curb his enthusiasm just a wee bit, the young lad can achieve big things.
That “enthusiasm” brought him a three-month suspension which will cut his 2022 season short. But, being who he is, he should make up for lost time.
The year also belonged to Beasley. The 46-year-old, who resurrected his riding career only this year after a three-year “layoff”, did everything right. He will have a fine 2022 season.
As for the trainers, 2021 will be significant for the achievements of Tim Fitzsimmons. He had a terrific season, saddling 33 winners for a 11.74 per cent strike rate.
What a difference from 2020, when he managed only five wins.
The 40-year-old Australian is certainly going places. He ended the season with a winner on the last day and his confidence is sky high.
Of course, there is Walker. He emerged Top Trainer for the fourth time, having lifted the crown in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Helped along by a winner on the last day of racing – King Arthur did the job – he sent out 66 winners. He beat his nearest rival, Michael Clements, by eight.
Hats off also to Daniel Meagher. He logged 35 winners, helped along by the exploits of that fabulous galloper we know as Lim’s Lightning.
Meagher prepared that galloping machine to capture the Lion City Cup in April. Five months later, “Lightning” struck again and Meagher had the Raffles Cup on the shelf.
Then, to cap a brilliant training feat, Lim’s Lightning put in a dominant performance to lift the one all trainers, jockeys and owners dream about: the Singapore Gold Cup. The horse was stupendous. Meagher helped make him so.
Yes, what is racing without the horses?
If it were a mere industry, it would feature in the business section of this newspaper. It would have the warmth of banking and the traditions of the stock market.
The horse gives the game theatre, a hero and divine madness. Take him away and you are left with mere commerce.
So who were the horses who made 2021?
Lim’s Lightning tops that list. Then there’s Hard Too Think and sprinters like Celavi and the youngster, Tiger Roar.
If only the grandstands were packed, we would hear the crowds roar for these equine marvels.
Alas, since July last year, we have been racing in front of eerily empty stands.
Fingers crossed, it is therefore our fervent wish that somewhere down the road, things will improve and the turnstiles opened to the faithful.
That will make us feel really good.