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Still humble after 'Lightning' strike

The likeable C.C. Wong is now chasing his 200th Kranji winner

When racing diehards gather at the coffee shops to “talk horse”, they gush about the jockeys. 

But only the “big” ones. 

Like Manoel Nunes, the Brazilian who has captured three Singapore champion jockey’s premiership titles and leading by a country mile this year.

Nunes this. Nunes that. They can go on and on.

But their tune has changed.

They are now waxing lyrical about this Kedah-born guy named Wong Chin Chuen. Or, CC Wong. Or Jimmy Wong, as he is known in racing circles.

And why? Because of the way he rode Lim’s Lightning to land the $1 million Singapore Group 1 Kranji Mile on Saturday.

Today, “CC” is their hero. And who can blame them? Wong did everything right. He did his homework. He sought advice and he followed instructions.

Now, he reaps the rewards and can bask in the adulation.

But he has a good head on his shoulders and he knows that one big win does not make him a champion.

“Yes, it is every jockey’s dream to ride a Group 1 winner,” said the 28-year-old. 

“But while it is a dream come true to have won the Kranji Mile, I have to keep working hard. And I must never stop learning.” 

Around the stables, it seems everyone has nothing but good things to say about this young man who, in 2010, started work as a scrawny syce in Penang.

It was a tough environment and his mentors worked him hard.

People like trainer Dr Tan Swee Hock helped shape his early days around horses.

“Dr Tan, his family and staff taught me everything. I started learning slowly, then worked as a stable boy before getting on a horse for the first time in 2014.”

There was nothing grand about that introduction to racing. But, according to Singapore trainer Tan Kah Soon (son of Dr Tan), it was those early days that made Wong the person and jockey he is today.

Wong took all the advice he received and worked to improve himself.

“I learnt a lot in my apprentice years and was lucky to win the champion apprentice titles in 2016 and 2017.

“It got harder when my claim dropped and even harder when I went full professional in 2019.

“I struggled for a while,” lamented Wong, who managed only eight winners in 2020. “But I kept trying my hardest.”

Slowly the better rides came. He rode 37 winners last year, finishing third on the senior jockeys’ premiership.

Wong has not rested on his laurels. This year, he again sits third on the jockeys’ table.

Back to that ride on Lim’s Lightning. The ride which made him the talk of the town.

He said: “I’m lucky to have ridden Malaysian Group 1 winners. But nothing beats this Kranji Mile. It truly is a dream come true.”

Some may think it was a nightmare for Danny Beasley. After all, he had ridden Lim’s Lightning in all of his big wins last season – the Lion City Cup, the Raffles Cup and the Singapore Gold Cup.

But, in the Kranji Mile, he was legged on trainer Dan Meagher’s other runner, Lim’s Kosciuszko. 

But there was no friction. Indeed, Beasley was overjoyed to see Wong land the big prize.

He said: “I was very happy and proud to see them all in the winners’ circle, especially CC. I am really a true believer in his ability. He works hard and was deserving of the big one.”

Well, you could say it was certainly Wong’s weekend. And here is a little tidbit.

Wong needs only three more winners to reach his 200th success in Singapore.

He has six rides on Saturday. Would it not be something if this likeable chap gets that double century just a week after landing that Singapore Group 1?

It will certainly give the old uncles at the kopitiams something else to jabber about.