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Shafrizal off to Australia

Last season's rookies' runner-up representing Singapore in apprentice series

Shafrizal Saleh will be representing the Singapore Turf Club at the National Apprentice Race Series (NARS) 2020 in Australia from tomorrow.

Shafrizal, last year's runner-up to Simon Kok in the rookies' premiership, and an apprentice from New Zealand will be the first overseas riders to be invited to ride at the annual month-long series.

Introduced in 2008, NARS has, in the last 12 years, become a well-established apprentice-only race series that sees rookies from across Australia compete in a collection of races rotating between five states.

Matthew Pumpa, the Singapore Turf Club's apprentice-and-claiming jockey coach who held the same job at Racing Victoria previously, was instrumental for the invitation.

The former Melbourne jockey himself took part in the series in the Perth leg when he was an apprentice jockey.

Pumpa will accompany, coach and assist Shafrizal at two or three of the five legs.

The series kicks off in Hobart, Tasmania, tomorrow. It will then move to Ascot, Western Australia on March 11, Doomben, Queensland on March 18, Sandown, Victoria on March 25, and wraps up at Murray Bridge in South Australia on April 1.

Like most jockeys' challenges, the winner by team will be determined by points system: first (7), second (5), third (3), fourth (2) and fifth (1).

In between, Shafrizal may get a chance to ride at regular meetings in South Australia, thanks to an agreement from Morphettville trainer Richard Jolly to act as his master during that period.

As expected, Shafrizal, who is indentured locally to trainer Michael Clements and has never ridden overseas - having honed his craft in only Malaysia and Singapore - was honoured and excited to get the rare opportunity to test his mettle against the best apprentice jockeys across Australia.

"I'm very excited with that amazing opportunity. I've never ridden overseas, let alone visit Australia, so it'll be a great experience for me," said Shafrizal.

"I'm actually very surprised I was selected and I'd like to thank the Singapore Turf Club and Matthew Pumpa for picking me."

Shafrizal said he doesn't know much about Australian racing, but Pumpa had told him about the different courses and the pace there, as well as the different whip rules. Jockeys can only whip five times and not consecutively before the 100 metres.

"I hope I can also ride in Adelaide for Mr Jolly. It'll be interesting to see a different set-up and compare the way he operates with what I'm used to here with Mr Clements," he said.

"One aspect of riding I really want to improve on is tactics. I hope I can learn as much as possible in the one month there."

A winner of 43 races in Malaysia, the Penang-born Shafrizal moved down South in 2016 but had to wait until his 89th ride to break the ice on the Mark Walker-trained Ahmar on April 16, 2017.

He has since racked up 28 winners at Kranji. He finished second to Kok last year with 14 winners. It was his best season.

Kok won with 35 winners last year.

HORSE RACING