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Tan keen for US-breds to ‘go bang’ again

After Bluejay, Benbo and Ahone saluted, JHI Racing rolls out another wave on Saturday

If trackwork is the best gauge to give any inkling of ability in newcomers, trainer Alwin Tan would have been very worried about his nine American three-year-olds.

He had said none of them really turned up the style on the training tracks in the mornings.

But as lacklustre as the JHI Stable wards’ work have been at home, Bluejay, Benbo and Ahone have all been pleasant surprises to the 2016 Singapore champion trainer. The trio have already visited the winner’s circle, with Bluejay and Benbo even victorious on debut.

With another two – Raweno and Laslos in the $75,000 Restricted Maiden (1,200m) – being thrown in at the deep end on Saturday, Tan is hoping they also buck the trend for the same happy results.

“It was such a surprise when Benbo and Bluejay won as I didn’t see anything special from them in trackwork. Then they go out and ‘bang’,” said Tan.

“Ahone’s win was also a big surprise because he was still green after two ordinary runs.

“This week is no different. Both Raweno and Laslos have also been plain in the morning.

“But between the two, I would say Raweno is slightly better than Laslos, just from his manners and the way he behaves in trackwork.”

However, Tan said he has definitely seen marked progress with more racing experience under the belt, especially for Benbo and Bluejay, who both return for another bite at the cherry on Saturday.

Interestingly, the two colts will not go head-to-head.

A son of Midshipman, Benbo runs in the $30,000 Class 5 Division 1 race over 1,200m while Bluejay, a son of Practical Joke, will be tossed into a tougher ring, the $75,000 Novice (1,400m), taking on better horseflesh like Pacific Charm and April.

Tan can understand the owner’s ‘divide and conquer’ mindset behind the split, but on the flip side of the coin, strength in numbers is also a proven strategy in racing.

“The owner doesn’t like to put good horses together,” he said.

“Between a $75,000 race and a $30,000 race, I would’ve done things different. But as long as the owner’s happy, I’m happy.”

By casting the net wide, there is also the chance of both Bluejay and Benbo winning to stay undefeated.

Tan, who flies back from the Magic Millions Adelaide Yearling Sale on Thursday, however, felt that probability was not very high.

“Benbo has a better chance. It’s an easier race while the field is tough for Bluejay,” he said.

“I hope Benbo can handle the weight (59kg), though. He’s very naughty in trackwork, so I got Manoel Nunes to control him better.

“Bluejay has this bad habit of jumping slow, like he did in his race. So he had a barrier trial.

“He was again a bit slow. That is my main concern this week.

“He can’t afford to make the same mistake in a stronger race, even if the 51kg is to his advantage.

“We won’t change his gear. The horse is fit, but he’s still a baby and is still learning, he’ll improve.

“But his run will tell us whether he can be our horse in the three-year-old series.”

Tan saddles a fifth US-bred JHI runner in Schneider, the bottom-weight on 52kg in the $20,000 Open Maiden race over 1,200m.

The Mr Speaker colt is not at his first Kranji run. He ran an encouraging third to Star Legend on debut in a similar contest on Feb 4.

In his case, the time between runs has taken a little longer than anticipated.

“Schneider lost a bit of weight after his first run,” said Tan.

“As he was also slow to begin, I sent him for an educational trial. He jumped better this time.

“But he still doesn’t know what to do. He looks around a lot, but he’s improved slightly.

“He’s got a light weight (52kg), and I’d say he’s with Benbo my two better chances on Saturday.”

Winning partner Koh Teck Huat stays on Schneider and Bluejay, while Raweno and Laslos will be paired with Zyrul Nor Azman and Saifudin Ismail respectively.

The JHI Racing Stable is a relative newcomer who started out with the New Zealand-bred Pathfinder, who, incidentally, is chasing that elusive first win in the $30,000 Class 5 Division 2 race (1,100m) at his 12th outing.

Keen to diversify their portfolio, they penetrated the US market on Tan’s advice. They paid US$165,000 (S$219,400) for nine colts at the Ocala sale in 2022.

Ari is the other one to have raced, coming away with two unplaced efforts. The last two Ocala graduates still waiting in the wings are Raging Rabbit and Hayato.