Shafrizal lands his first Kranji victory on Ahmar

On April 13, 2013, apprentice jockey Shafrizal Saleh booted home his first career winner at his very first meeting in Ipoh. The horse, trained by Bonny Ng, was called Triple Coin.

Four years later, almost to the day, on April 16, 2017, the Penang rider rode his first winner in Singapore. The horse's name was AHMAR and his trainer was Mark Walker.

Like it was in Ipoh, Shafrizal was in his glory.

Shafrizal has been plying his trade at Kranji since September last year and, although pundits had been quick to spot his talent just by looking at his balance and his strength in the saddle, he had not broken the ice in 88 rides.

Along the way, he picked up a handful of placings - and the closest he came was that second place aboard Amazing Man earlier this year.

But that very same Amazing Man also proved to be his nemesis when he was handed a four-meeting suspension for a charge of careless riding in the home straight.

Frustration would be an understatement to describe the 29-year-old's bumpy journey at Kranji.

A need to brush up on his steering was also imperative if he wanted to make his mark at his new stomping ground.

Just last week, he was slapped with a two-week suspension for not riding Knight Chen Bay to the line in a race on Feb 24, piling more misery on a two-day suspension he had already incurred for careless riding on the same horse in the same race.

But guidance and support from his master Michael Clements, as well as regular backing from other trainers, spurred him on. His patience was finally rewarded when he won Sunday's opening event, a Kranji Stakes D race over 1,400m.

Ahmar, a maiden who had been knocking on the door with two seconds and one third at his last three runs, rallied under Shafrizal's urgings to go and post a half-length win from Nova Spirit with Storm Trooper taking third.

It was Shafrizal's only ride on Sunday.

"I'm so happy to finally get my first winner in Singapore. I've waited for too long," he said.

"I'd never ridden this horse in a race before but I looked at his record and I thought he had a good chance. I rode him in trackwork and he gave me a good feeling.

"The instructions were to put him in a good position and not be too far behind. He quickened very well at the top of the straight, and at the 100m mark, I knew I had my first Singapore winner."

Shafrizal, who began his double suspension yesterday and won't be back in a race until May 12, said the reason for moving to Singapore was pretty much the same as many fellow Malaysians - the lure of better opportunities - and when Clements' offer landed on his lap, he did not look back.

"I've always wanted to ride in Singapore but never really did anything about it until Mr Clements said he was looking for an apprentice jockey and asked me if I was interested. I said yes straightaway," said Shafrizal.

"I gave myself a year to see how things would work out. I have to admit I was feeling a bit down, but I never gave up and I'm glad I didn't."