The 2016 season has yet again seen another stellar year of horse racing at Kranji, but was probably marked by its ultra-competitiveness as highlighted by its three closely-contested championships, with the winners only known late in the piece.
After finding one better at the last two seasons, Alwin Tan’s dream of winning the supreme honour finally became true this year. Dominant in the mid to lower grade races, the former Air Force regular was always in the Top 5 from Day 1 but could never quite break clear until the last two months.
Trainer Patrick Shaw tried to counter the Singaporean, but Tan’s greater depth of horses in the lower divisions and higher turnover of horses throughout the season gave him an edge.
And how not to mention trainer Cliff Brown’s superlative season? Even if he finished only fourth on 57 winners, the Australian handler was a clear winner in the feature race department (seven altogether), with his claim to fame being the distinction of becoming the first Kranji trainer to win five Group 1 races in one season, three coming from his stable star, Debt Collector.
The title race in the riding ranks was also a bunched-up affair with a blanket which could be thrown over four or five of them, namely Manoel Nunes, Vlad Duric, Danny Beasley and to a lesser extent, Corey Brown and Michael Rodd, for most of the season, but Nunes eventually shot clear in the last couple of months to win his third Singapore champion jockey title in a row, on 75 winners.
It was by far the Brazilian’s hardest-fought title when compared to his runaway campaigns in 2014 (108 wins) and 2015 (123 wins). With a year plagued by suspensions and injury, not to mention the stiffer competition in the jockeys’ room, Nunes could not quite stamp his authority this year, and was even headed by Duric at some stage.
But true to his champion qualities, Nunes picked himself off the canvas at the right time – which coincided with his biggest supporter, 2015 champion trainer Mark Walker also regaining his form late in the year, following a topsy-turvy season – to hold off his challengers with great aplomb for a third hurrah.
The apprentice jockeys’ title also seemed to be heading down to the wire between Wong Chin Chuen and Troy See around September, but aided by a stronger support, mainly from trainer Desmond Koh, Wong got the rub of the green in the last quarter to eventually cross the line by a comfortable margin of five winners.
On the other hand, former multiple champion owner, the Lim’s Stable, marked their return to the big time quite early in the season, sustaining their lead in both the Leading Owners in the Stakes and Number of Wins categories, thanks to a strong fleet of horses well spread out across different trainers and grades.
While Debt Collector took Kranji by storm with his unblemished 2016 record of six wins from as many starts, five coming at Group level, including the Group 1 Singapore Guineas, Panasonic Kranji Mile and Raffles Cup, the year also saw a vintage crop of promising horses bursting through the ranks such as Bahana, Well Done, Lim’s Cruiser, Nova Swiss, Rafaello, Jupiter Gold while old stalwarts like Quechua, Emperor Max and Laughing Gravy still held their own.
We end this 2016 recap by wishing all our readers Happy Holidays and looking forward to seeing you again for another exciting and successful 2017 season, kicking off right away with the traditional New Year Cup meeting on New Year’s Day.
The Group 3 New Year Cup has again gone the way of trainer Patrick Shaw. The South African conditioner added a fourth success in the traditional curtain raiser over 1900m with victory from Perfect P, incidentally giving jockey Nooresh Juglall the second pin of a riding treble. Apprentice jockey Joseph See enjoys his best day in Singapore with a four-timer on January 3. Japanese jockey Kanichiro ‘Joe’ Fujii makes a winning comeback at Kranji after nine years when he boots home In Bucco Al Lupo for his main supporter, trainer Hideyuki Takaoka on January 10. New Brazilian jockey Elione Chaves scores at his very first ride, King Of Thieves, on January 15. Stepitup is voted 2015 Singapore Horse of the Year at the 2015 Singapore Racing Awards on January 21. Malaysian jockey-turned-trainer Ismadi Ismail’s son Amirul scores his first win in Singapore aboard Taramea for his new master Stephen Gray on January 22. The Singaporean-owned Xiong Feng wins the Karaka Million (1200m) in New Zealand on January 24. The end of the month sees an isolation order imposed at Kranji following four cases of Strangles, but racing continues as per normal.
Top stayer Quechua bounces back to the winner’s circle with a gutsy win under Corey Brown to lead a Patrick Shaw quartet in the Chinese New Year feature, the Group 3 Fortune Bowl (2000m) on February 9. On the same day, good fortune was also with Australian jockey Danny Beasley when he sealed his first Kranji win (Kiss Me) since returning after a one-year absence. Nine-time Singapore champion trainer Laurie Laxon is inducted in the New Zealand racing Hall of Fame on February 12. New apprentice jockey Nurshahril Nordin gets on the scoresheet for the first time when he drives Tropical Forest home on February 19. Another comeback jockey scores his first win in a long time; Vlad Duric whose dead-heat win aboard Gold Crown on February 21 is the first since the Australian last rode a winner (Red Beard) at Kranji back in November 2011.
John O’Hara’s banner horse Spalato thumps his rivals with new partner Corey Brown in the Group 2 Merlion Trophy (1200m) on March 6. Visiting South African jockey Derreck David gets off to a flier aboard Poseidon in the Racing Guide Classic on March 11. An upset is staged in the Group 3 Dester Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) with the least fancied of Alwin Tan’s trio, Conflight going all the way for Oscar Chavez on March 27.
Ex-Kranji trainer Michael Freedman’s former assistant-trainer James Peters saddles his first official winner, Olympic Anthem at his first day as a trainer in his own right on April 1. The win also gave Nooresh Juglall a first win since returning from a long injury-enforced layoff. Singapore champion sprinter Emperor Max makes a winning comeback for trainer Stephen Gray and new partner Danny Beasley in the Group 3 Kranji Sprint (1200m) on April 3 while on the same day, rank-outsider In Fact causes a massive boilover for Patrick Shaw in the Group 3 JBBA Moonbeam Vase (1800m) to incidentally give his apprentice jockey Mohd Firdaus his biggest win at Kranji. On April 8, another debuting trainer Alvin Kuah Chee Teng outdoes Peters by winning his first race with his very first starter Smart Fortune on April 8. Across the Causeway, Kranji apprentice jockey Amirul Ismadi wins his second consecutive Perak Derby (2400m) aboard the same horse, Littlebitofjoy, but this time for his father, jockey-turned-trainer Ismadi Ismail on April 17. Trainer Cliff Brown snags a feature double on April 24, first with Debt Collector who ran away with the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m) under Michael Rodd before his sprinting star Zac Spirit won his second Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) under Vlad Duric. It was to be Zac Spirit’s swan song for the champion sprinter who was subsequently retired.
Son of former jockey Marzuki Sani, Khalid Marzuki wins his first race aboard Silver Wind for trainer Alvin Kuah on May 8. Cliff Brown’s purple patch in feature events carries on when he lands the Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) with Debt Collector (Michael Rodd) on May 15. After drawing a blank at his six-month contract debut on May 20, three-time Melbourne Cup winning jockey Glen Boss does not take long to get on the board with a riding double on May 22. Titanium, with A’Isisuhairi Kasim up, gives young trainer James Peters his first feature win barely two months into his career launch after he plotted the widest path to land the Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1400m), the first Leg of the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge on May 29.
Trainer Cliff Brown is again in the limelight, this time with Laughing Gravy who shows he has come of age with a slashing win under big-race jockey Glen Boss in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) on June 5. On the same day, Mohd Yusof’s apprentice jockey Alfian Nordin records his first career win aboard Sacred Crown a few weeks after he returned from injury. After Cash Luck in the Panasonic Kranji Mile in 2013, Well Done (Glen Boss) gives trainer David Kok a second Group 1 success in the Patron’s Bowl (1600m) on June 19. On the same day, French comeback jockey Olivier Placais scores his first win since he left Kranji in March 2012 when he saluted aboard Chase.
After five exciting Legs, the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series concludes with a gutsy win from Steven Burridge’s filly Lim’s Racer (Danny Beasley) in the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) on July 8. Well Done shows his Patron’s Bowl win was not fortuitous when he claims the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby (2000m) under Michael Rodd on July 10. Good News lives up to his name to give trainer Tan Hor Khoon and jockey Benny Woodworth something to cheer about in the Korea Racing Authority Trophy (1200m) on July 24. Hong Kong jockey Matthew Chadwick records his one and only Singapore win aboard Master Banger on July 29 at a short stint during the off-season. After a string of placings, the Alwin Tan-trained Mystic Master finally gets off the mark when it mattered – in the Group 3 Juvenile Championship (1200m) on July 31. It was to be English jockey Alan Munro’s only ‘black type’ win for the year.
Class prevails in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1800m) on August 7 with dual Gold Cup-Derby winner Quechua (Corey Brown) returning to his best at the highest level capping a great weekend for his trainer Patrick Shaw with a seventh winner. A fortnight later, the South African mentor continues his stellar Group form by claiming the next feature on offer, the Group 3 Garden City Trophy (1200m) with the Nooresh Juglall-ridden Rafaello on August 21. Super Winner (Antonio da Silva) and Laser Storm (Wong Chin Chuen) cannot be split in the day’s highlight on August 28, the Phumelela Gaming & Leisure Trophy (1200m).
Cliff Brown’s top three-year-old Debt Collector (Michael Rodd) makes a winning comeback as a four-year-old in the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) on September 4. Manoel Nunes and Antonio da Silva represent Singapore at a Korean jockeys’ series on September 10 but came up short. They had no better luck with their respective rides Infantry and Super Winner in the Korean international races the next day. The Theo Kieser-trained Super Winner was well beaten in the Keeneland Korea Sprint (1200m) while the Alwin Tan-trained Infantry and the Desmond Koh-trained Order Of The Sun (Wong Chin Chuen) did not handle the Seoul sand track either to also finish among the also-rans in the Keeneland Korea Cup (1800m). The Stephen Gray-trained Twickenham comes back from the jaws of defeat to claim the Group 3 Committee’s Prize (1600m) under a powerful ride from Vlad Duric on September 18.
Nothing seems to faze Debt Collector. After the Jumbo Jet Trophy a month earlier, he notches the Group 1 Panasonic Kranji Mile (1600m) in his usual last-gasp style for Cliff Brown and Michael Rodd on October 9. A great frontrunning ride by Nooresh Juglall hands trainer James Peters a second ‘black type’ win with Spanish Bay in the Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes (1400m) on October 16. Nova Strike wins the Landex Cup (1200m) for Alwin Tan and Manoel Nunes on October 23. The Stephen Gray-trained and Vlad Duric-ridden Bahana showcases his staying qualities with a gutsy win in the Group 3 El Dorado Classic (2200m) on October 30. A few races later, Debt Collector turns in another trademark come-from-behind run to get up inside the last 100 yards and claim the Group 1 Raffles Cup (1800m) for the Cliff Brown-Michael Rodd tandem.
New rookie Syed Zainal tastes success for the first time aboard Storm Trooper for his master Mark Walker on November 6. The Singapore Turf Club launches iTote on November 15 after it was granted exemption for remote gambling. Former four-time Singapore champion jockey Joao Moreira flies in for a one-day visit at the EW Barker Trophy meeting on November 18, but despite a full book of rides can only ride one winner – Louey Veloce. It is his lesser-known fellow Hong Kong-based colleague, Mauritian rider Karis Teetan who steals the thunder by landing the Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m) aboard the Stephen Gray-trained Lim’s Cruiser. Two days later another visiting jockey, Melbourne champion Craig Williams rates emerging stayer Bahana to perfection to bag the Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup (2200m), which is sponsored for the first time by local beer Dester, again for Gray who ends the year with a flourish. On November 27, newly-licensed top French jockey Gerald Mosse secures his first Singapore win with a pick-up ride Deimos for Cliff Brown.
The last feature race of the year, the Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes (1700m) saw multiple Singapore champion trainer Laurie Laxon’s rather lacklustre season spike to a rare peak with Daniel (Glen Boss), himself on the wane the whole season, on December 4. Singapore superstar Rocket Man officially retires on the same day during a simple and yet emotional farewell party. It is also an apt way to bow out for his trainer Patrick Shaw, though he still has a foot in the door as he embarks on a 6 ½-month sabbatical for health reasons. The South African handler still has a last chance to end his illustrious career with another international accolade – like Rocket Man gave him in Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong – with Quechua in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin on December 11. Though he did not succeed, Shaw and connections were still proud of Quechua who was drawn the widest and copped several checks in the running, but still made late ground to run eighth to Japan’s Satono Crown (Joao Moreira). Meanwhile, Kranji-based Mauritian jockey Nooresh Juglall gets his own chance to make his mark in Hong Kong with a short-term five-day licence in the former British colony during the Singapore break. The various premierships were captured by trainer Alwin Tan (90 wins), the first Singaporean trainer to clinch the title since Charles Leck in 2003, Brazilian jockey Manoel Nunes (75 wins) for the third consecutive time and Malaysian apprentice jockey Wong Chin Chuen (31 wins), who as at his first crown, either side of the Causeway. In the horse owners category, the Lim’s Stable took both Leading Owner awards, in terms of prizemoney and for most wins in the season.