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Tough mare seals last tour de Force with a win

French fields beckon as Lim’s Force goes out with a bang, leading rare Zaki riding double

Many horses at Kranji face an uncertain future after Singapore racing’s last lap is done and dusted on Oct 5.

Those who are lucky enough will continue their careers elsewhere, mostly across the Causeway.

From a cost and logistical viewpoint, the Malaysian exit strategy would be the favoured option among most owners, especially for those whose trainers are also relocating there.

For Australia or New Zealand, horses have to be air-freighted, and their racing scene is also a lot tougher.

Besides, that north-bound exodus to Kuala Lumpur, Penang or Ipoh had been a well-established practice for years, way before Singapore racing went into shutdown mode.

The search for an easier circuit coupled with the need to make way for new blood at Kranji were the main push factors.

However, with an age cap set at seven – up to eight in exceptional cases for high-class horses – on such exports, the only option left for older horses is to be put to pasture.

The rehoming process can still be tricky. Both parties must be willing, firm commitments must be pledged to the horse’s welfare in their remaining years.

The current Kranji horse population has dwindled from around 700 pre-June 5 (when closure was announced) to 445 nearly one year later.

One happy ending can make that 444, though – and, interestingly, down a road less travelled.

Veteran mare Lim’s Force did not just sign off her seven-year long Kranji career on a winning note in the $30,000 Class 5 Division 1 race (1,200m) on May 12, but she was also lucky enough to have already found a new home.

Win, lose or draw, the Foxwedge 10-year-old was boarding a Paris-bound plane on June 9.

Trainer Daniel Meagher has experienced all the highs of racing with the innumerable feats of Lim’s Kosciuszko and Lim’s Lightning.

Lim’s Force is not in the same league as those two champions even if she shares the same famous Lim’s Stable navy blue and yellow stars colours.

But her 10th win at her farewell run on start No. 69 had Meagher equally emotional at the winner’s circle.

“What a great story. It doesn’t get any better than that,” said the Australian.

“My equine chiropractor Jakki Harrison heads a fundraising group called SG Racehorse Retirement.

“Their main objective is to rehome horses from Singapore, especially with the closure coming up.

“She’s found a place in France for Lim’s Force. It’s a big property where she will join Relentless (Tim Fitzsimmons’ 2022 Group 2 Stewards’ Cup winner), who’s already there.

“Lim’s Force has got issues in all four legs, but she’s been a good honest mare to us. She deserves a nice retirement.

“This is a good story from a bad situation.”

Meagher said he had been quite bullish about a fairy-tale script for the Polytrack specialist’s last race, even if she had gone off the boil of late.

“I really liked her today. She trialled really good last week (May 2),” he said.

Parked up with the speed by leading tactics expert Mohd Zaki, Lim’s Force fought bravely towards that final salute.

After overcoming leader Windfall (Carlos Henrique), she had to foil Captain Singapore’s (Vitor Espindola) late charge to prevail by a short head.

The $31 odds did reflect some market confidence, but not Zaki’s.

The Malaysian jockey, who now rides out for Meagher after Shane Baertschiger returned to Australia in December, said he just followed instructions from his new boss, without expecting too much.

“Honestly, I didn’t think she had a chance. Mr Meagher told me to jump and go forward but, more importantly, not to stress,” said Zaki.

“I kept her balanced all the way, and she responded very well to my riding.”

It would seem that when it rains, it pours for the hard-working jockey, whose only other 2024 winner had been Wednesday, also for Meagher, on April 6.

Groovy’s win in the last race for a rare double again caught Zaki unawares – and punters as well this time.

The Richard Lim-trained galloper landed from the clouds to drop a $207 bombshell in the $50,000 Class 4 race (1,200m) on Poly.

“I thought Groovy also got no chance. He was off the bit,” said Zaki. “But when he got back on the bit in the straight, he started to pick up. When everybody stopped, he kept going.

“I’m very happy with today’s results, even if it was unexpected.

“Thank you to Mr Meagher, I didn’t know where to go after Mr Shane left, but Mr Meagher asked me to join him and he will support me with rides.

“He has given me my confidence back. I’d also like to thank my wife Nur Alya Najwa and my family for their support.”

manyan@sph.com.sg

HORSE RACING