Tan finally collects the cash
Former Singapore champion trainer ends lean spell with Cash King on Saturday
Cash King may have poked his head in front right where it mattered on Saturday, but battling trainer Alwin Tan will need more than a one-off shot in the arm to turn his season around.
Given the fine line between winning and losing, he was, for once, lucky his horse scraped home.
If the heavily backed favourite Legend Of Niagara had lunged at the post a fraction earlier in the $20,000 Open Maiden (1,200m), Tan’s losing sequence since Bizar Wins on June 24 would have continued.
The 2016 Singapore champion trainer has seen better days, but ironically, the present campaign did not start off as one of his worst.
It was anything but vintage 2016, but the flow of winners was steady enough for him to actually sit as high as sixth on the log in mid-February.
But the pace slackened off in the next couple of months, before it all went downhill.
Cash King ($16) finally edged Tan into double digits, but more pointedly, it has taken him seven months from February to double his tally of five winners.
“It’s great to win a race again after so long,” he said.
“But we still have to work harder. Right now, we’re in this type of situation where most of our horses don’t have much form.”
Tan was not pinpointing any horse in particular, but if there is one batch who has let him down after showing so much promise, it is the JHI Stable-owned US-breds.
The likes of Bluejay, Benbo, Ahone, Schneider and Laslos hit the ground running with win after win from February to April.
Some even coined the purple patch as a mini-American revolution, but it soon fizzled out.
On Saturday, five of JHI’s nine US buys stepped out, but, again, ran poorly.
Tan is at a loss to explain why the bubble has burst, other than they may have been victims of their own success a touch too early.
“I think they are just inconsistent in their form. Only Bluejay ran in Restricted Maiden races, the rest raced in Open Maiden and Class 5,” he said.
“They probably found the opposition too strong as they went through their grades. I was still expecting better from some of them.
“I’ll have to look at ways to readjust their standards, and, hopefully, place them in the right races.”
Another horse the yard had been banking on to spearhead its revival plans, but who has failed spectacularly, is Cash Cove.
Even touted as Tan’s gun three-year-old, the Charm Spirit grey – who scored three wins in 2022 – ended up winning only once in 2023.
Tan, who made a clean sweep of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge with War Affair in 2014, soon wised up to the fact Cash Cove was not in the same mould.
“Cash Cove has dropped in both form and confidence after his three Group races. I think those races broke his heart,” he said.
“He also has this bad habit of jumping slow, and that’s why I gave him two trials.
“He actually trialled well, but he was disappointing again.
“I’ve already rested him for a while. I’ll still work out how to improve him – maybe keep him fresh and remove blinkers.”
Cash Cove’s owner, Ivan Neo, could find solace in Cash King’s maiden win, though there was no photo on who the better horse was.
“Cash King is no superstar. The race was an Open Maiden, but I was still not 100 per cent confident,” said Tan.
“I was still worried about the six (Legend Of Niagara), eight (Volcanic) and the nine (Windfall).
“But the horse won thanks to jockeyship.
“After (Manoel) Nunes watched the horse’s last trial, he told me the horse would be better suited by going forward.
“The other horses were getting close, but he found another kick. Again, credit to jockey.”
Despite the hard slog, he is one win short of equalling his 2022 record of 11 winners, a far cry from his bumper haul of 90 winners in 2016.
But, in saying this, with racing set to shutdown in 2024, such records now feel irrelevant to Tan – and presumably, most of his colleagues.
“I’m just keeping a low profile and taking it day by day,” he said wistfully.