Horse racing: Another year goes by without a triple crown winner

Jockey Joao Moreira steering Super Easy to an easy win in Race 9 of the Group 1 Lion City Cup on 28 April 2013.

It was an affair to remember - and oh, how racegoers swooned as they looked ahead to that fairy-tale ending.

After a fantastic 2013 season, which saw him score six times in eight outings, WAR AFFAIR charged into the 2014 season looking to conquer all before him.

By October, the romance had heated up into a torrid liaison when War Affair took the Panasonic Kranji Mile, the first leg of the Singapore Triple Crown Series. Then came the second leg, the Raffles Cup.

Racegoers thronged through Kranji's turnstiles with just one star in their eyes. Down to a man, they had come to see War Affair and he didn't let them down.

Indeed, it was War Affair first and the others nowhere.

It set the stage for him to become the first horse to claim the Triple Crown and hearts were a-flutter as we watched the champ prepare for that final leg, the Longines Singapore Gold Cup.

Trainer Alwin Tan's charge was the darling of the turf. And he looked the part in the parade ring. But, like most affairs of the heart, this one didn't end well.

War Affair gave it his all - but it wasn't enough.

While his heart was right in it, other factors came into play, notably his 58kg handicap, and Singapore's affair with the four-year-old ended in tatters when he could only manage fifth spot behind an exciting prospect for 2015 honours, QUECHUA.

So, with eyes wide open, we will tiptoe into the 2015 season, preparing, again, to be swept off our feet and seduced by some horse and rider.

Who knows, we might even fall head over heels for another in the mould of War Affair.

But, before that, let's look back to the season gone by and pay tributes to the tenacity of the horse, the charisma of the jockey and those moments of magic which made 2014 another stand-out year of racing.

JANUARY

Jan 1: What a way to kick off the 2014 racing season! Although the first race was just a Class 5 Div 1 event over 1,400m, racegoers were kept on the edge of their seats when two horses lunged at the winning post together.

Fiscal Wings held off Grand Vitess by a mere nose, but the drama did not end there. An objection for interference was lodged and Fiscal Wings was relegated to second after a lengthy inquiry.

Jockey Manoel Nunes, who rode Fiscal Wings, went on to ride three winners, including the Laurie Laxon-trained Dujardin in the Group 3 New Year Cup.

On this day, trainer Hideyuki Takaoka saddled his 300th Kranji winner with Tangible Assets.

Jan 3: Trainer Shane Baertschiger was in form, sending out three winners (Makawao, Street Champ and Seligi).

Jan 5: Gato Negro and Strubelli dead-heated for first placing, but the other drama was that of a bizarre incident in which the gates flew open when a barrier attendant was seen crawling out from a barrier. Luckily, the man was not hurt.

Jan 17: Dujardin scored his second Group 3 victory in 17 days by taking the Woodlands Classic Stakes.

Jan 26: Onwats App, who was having only his second start, led all the way to pay a thumping $542 for a win. He was the least-backed of the eight runners.

FEBRUARY

Feb 1: Stepitup, winner of the Singapore Three-Year-old Challenge over 1,200m, 1,400m and 1,600m the previous year, passed his first test over 2,000m by capturing the Group 3 Fortune Bowl from Martin.

Feb 16: The promising Faaltless, who later became the course record-holder for the 1,200m (short course), provided Baertschiger with his milestone 100th Kranji winner in just two years of training.

Sprint star Zac Spirit's fighting spirit saw him get up to beat Holy Empire in the Group 3 Three Rings Trophy.

Feb 20: The Michael Freedman-trained, Joy N Happiness Stable-owned Super Easy emulated Rocket Man's feat of being crowned Horse of the Year for two consecutive years at the Singapore Racing Awards night.

Feb 21: Jockey Barend Vorster hailed a new milestone at Kranji when MrArmstrong gave him his 600th winner.

Feb 28: Australian teenage apprentice Jamie Kah was on top of the world on this night, when she notched her first Kranji win aboard Just A Man. It was her 11th ride of her three-week stint.

MARCH

March 2: Australian jockey Nathan Berry, who was on a four-month stint, joined an elite club by winning on his first ride at Kranji, Serpico.

March 7: Johnny Guitar took the Group 3 Polytrack Mile Championship in a three-way finish, beating Super Ninetyseven and Cash Luck.

March 14: Noted Polytracker El Padrino annihilated his opposition by coming from last to take the Group 3 Merlion Trophy by five lengths. The win earned the Alwin Tan-trained galloper an invitation to the International Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen but this had to be aborted at the last minute because of a vaccination protocol.

March 18: Jockey Nathan Berry (above) suddenly collapsed at the Singapore Turf Club's canteen and was warded at Gleneagles Hospital, where tests and scans pointed to an inflammation of the brain caused by a virus.

March 21: Jockeys Mark Ewe and Marcus Au bounced back to the winner's enclosure after two years, aboard Afrojack and Hero Success respectively.

New apprentice Kif Toh, a graduate of the Singapore Training Academy for Racing, made a dream debut by winning on his first ride, Leave Me Alone.

March 23: Polytrack specialist Goliath took out the Group 3 Marsiling Classic Stakes from stablemate Wild Geese.

March 28: Kif Toh stamped himself as a rider to watch when he followed up his debut win with a two-from-two, Zedkaar and Real Goodman.

March 30: Apprentice Desmond Chan Wei Sheng's wait for his first winner ended with his win on Gypsy Magic. It was his 37th ride.

War Affair beat Faaltless in the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint, the first leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge.

APRIL

April 3: The shocking news: Jockey Nathan Berry had died in Sydney, Australia, shortly after landing on a special medical flight from Singapore, where he had been warded since March 23. He was diagnosed with a rare brain disorder known as NORSE Syndrome. He was only 23 years old.

April 4: Zac Spirit just lasted by a short head from Emperor Max in the Group 3 Kranji Sprint, the second leg of the Singapore Sprint Series.

April 6: Cash Luck got the cash in the Group 3 JBBA Moonbeam Vase to pay $65 in the nine-horse race.

April 18: It's rare for an unraced newcomer to start at the ridiculous odds of $6 for a win but the Alwin Tan-trained Power Lion was sent off at that price and duly delivered with an easy win.

April 20: War Affair made it two-up in the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge by capturing the Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic easily by two lengths.

April 27: It was a day which saw three Group races being run. The Group 1 Lion City Cup went to Zac Spirit, the Group 2 Queen Elizabeth II Cup to Wild Geese and the Group 3 Admiralty Classic Stakes to Knight's Command, who gave apprentice Zuriman Zulkifli his first black-type success.

MAY

May 4: Apprentice Thavakumar Barnabas rode his first Singapore winner aboard debutant Spalato, who romped home by just under 10 lengths.

May 9: Singaporean trainer Sam Chua enjoyed his first four-timer of his career, with Jet Cosmo, Black Bean, Hear Me ($372 for a win) and Accomplished.

May 16: There was plenty of drama on this day. Horse-of-the-moment War Affair secured his Grand Slam of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge by winning the final leg, the Group 1 Singapore Guineas in record time (1min 33.69 for the 1,600m on the long course).

Flying filly Kiwi Karma took the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe and trainer Steven Lam finally got the monkey off his back, saddling his first winner of the year with Double Cash.

May 18: The day Hong Kong ruled on Singapore's biggest race day, winning both the International Group 1 races. Dan Excel, trained by John Moore and ridden by Tommy Berry, the twin brother of Nathan, captured the $3 million Singapore Airlines International Cup over 2,000m, and Lucky Nine, trained by Caspar Fownes and ridden by Brett Prebble, took the $1 million KrisFlyer International Sprint over 1,200m.

JUNE

June 1: Emperor Max, second to Lucky Nine in the KrisFlyer, reigned supreme in the Group 2 Stewards' Cup by leading all the way.

June 6: Kif Toh, the apprentice with a bright future, took a tumble from Sir Fleetwood. He suffered three fractures on his back and one on his neck and the injury ruled him out for the year.

June 8: Singapore galloper Trudeau won the Malaysian Group 1 Piala Emas Sultan Selangor with former Singapore champion jockey Noel Callow astride.

June 15: Mauritian jockey Nooresh Juglall joined the elite group by winning his debut ride, steering the aptly-named Majestic Moments to a head victory.

June 20: Jockey John Powell, who came to Singapore in 2005, achieved a new milestone in his Kranji career by notching his 400th success, on Cash Advance.

June 22: Spalato gave trainer John O'Hara his first Group 1 success by taking the Patron's Bowl. It was only the gelding's third start and he rose from Class 4 to Group winner. A feat, indeed.

JULY

July 4: Nunes was in unstoppable form, booting hom six winners, including City Lad in the Group 3 Yew Tee Classic Stakes. It was the Brazilian's personal best in Singapore.

July 11: All eyes were on Mexican Gal as it was the first start of the daughter of former champion mare Mexican Rose. Like mother, like daughter, Mexican Gal won first-up in Singapore.

July 13: Goal Keeper scored in the Group 3 Paititi Gold Trophy to give trainer Theo Kieser his first silverware since he started training on his own in 2009.

Four races later, the unbeaten Spalato scored an unbelievable four-and-a-quarter-length victory in the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby, although it was his first attempt over 2,000m.

July 18: Apprentice Ruzaili Yatim bagged his first Kranji winner when he steered Benji's Rule to an upset win.

July 27: This day belonged to champion trainer Laurie Laxon, who swept both the black-type races staged, with Affleck in the Group 3 Juvenile Championship and with Goodman the Group 2 Chairman's Trophy.

AUGUST

Aug 3: It was Nooresh Juglall Day, with the Mauritian booting home four winners for four different trainers.

Aug 8: El Padrino powered home to take the Group 3 Woodlands Handicap and signalled his chances for the inaugural Asia Challenge Cup in Seoul, South Korea.

Aug 10: Trainer Patrick Shaw was in his element, saddling four winners from six races with Rock Esprit, Spyder, Vertical Start and Lucky Dapper.

Aug 15: One Rar held off another Polytrack lover Goliath to win the Group 3 Causeway Classic Stakes and gave jockey Matthew Kellady his first feature-races success.

Aug 17: Trainer Steven Burridge made this a day to remember by saddling his 500th Kranji winner with "problem horse" Callide River.

Aug 31: Shaw provided the first three finishers in the day's main race, with the winner Emperor's Banquet giving apprentice MM Firdaus his first Kranji success.

Over in Seoul, El Padrino won like a champion in the Asia Challenge Cup with jockey David Flores astride. Singapore's two other representatives, Speedy Cat and Trudeau, were unplaced.

SEPTEMBER

Sept 7: Flax, the oldest contender in the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy, came from near-last to beat Daniel by a head.

Former Malaysian champion jockey Jackson Low's decision to relocate to Singapore paid off when he notched his first Kranji winner, Californian Jet.

Sept 12: Leading jockey Manoel Nunes rode his 200th Kranji winner, Al Valore. For good measure, he also triumphed on Wonderful Prince and Peregrine Falcon.

Sept 21: The double-feature day saw jockey Danny Beasley taking the Group 3 Garden City Trophy in record time and Mauritian jockey Nooresh Juglall leading all the way in the Group 3 Committee's Prize.

Sept 25: Singapore racing mourned the loss of veteran trainer Douglas Dragon, who died after a long battle with a heart illness. He was 71.

Sept 26: Trainer Laurie Laxon achieved another milestone in his Kranji career with winner No. 1,100 coming from newcomer Helen. Like his 1,000th winner Alan last year, Helen was owned by his long-time supporter, CK Phua of Oscar Racing Stable.

Sept 28: Although his feat could not be compared with Laxon's, jockey Corey Brown had his little Kodak moment when These Streets gave him his century mark at Kranji.

OCTOBER

Oct 3: Happy is an auspicious word and it certainly made trainer Alwin Tan a happy man on this day. Both his winners had happy in their names - Happy Happy and Happy Money.

Oct 5: War Affair, rated the best horse he has ridden by jockey Danny Beasley, gave the Australian jockey his 400th Kranji winner by capturing the Group 1 Panasonic Kranji Mile, first leg of the Singapore Triple Crown.

Oct 17: While Above De Pinnacle gave Nunes his 100th winner of the season, apprentice Amin Hassan was on Cloud Nine as well when he rode his first winner, Fiscal Wings. It was his 40th ride.

Oct 19: Emperor Max scored a last-gasp win over Slew Of Lode in the Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes. The margin was a mere short head.

Jockey Barend Vorster, who was sidelined for three months from a foot injury, returned triumphant on the aptly-named Super Victory.

Oct 26: War Affair followed up on his Panasonic Kranji Mile victory in the Group 1 Raffles Cup, which left only the Group 1 Longines Singapore Gold Cup to complete the Singapore Triple Crown Grand Slam. But the possibility of a crushing weight had his connections worrying.

Spalato took out the Luzerne Cup - his sixth win from as many starts - and Hong Kong beckoned. He was invited for the domestic Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint and the International Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint.

NOVEMBER

Nov 2: It was trainer Desmond Koh's turn to hog the limelight. He secured his 400th winner - Southern Boss - in 11 years of training.

Nov 7: Affleck, the horse to watch next season, crushed his opposition in the Group 3 More Magic 3YO Championship Series.

Nov 9: Trainer Stephen Gray celebrated his 50th birthday by capturing the Group 2 EW Barker Trophy with Born To Fly.

Nov 14: This one makes a good trivia. Doraemon ended a losing sequence of 42 starts over four years and two months. Trainer Leslie Khoo paid kudos to the owners for their patience.

Nov 16: Trainer Patrick Shaw provided the quinella in the circuit's most prestigious and time-honoured classic, the $1.35 million Group 1 Longines Singapore Gold Cup with Quechua (jockey Corey Brown) and Emperor's Banquet.

The improving Quechua is the horse to watch in the new season. Shaw had said that his star's main target is the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby for four-year-olds. Both Quechua and Emperor's Banquet are owned by the Yongs and their partners. Eight years ago, Shaw also trained the Yongs' Mr Line to win. He also saddled the runner-up, War Horn.

War Affair laboured under the 58kg but finished a creditable fifth in this final leg of the Singapore Triple Crown Series.

Nov 23: Macau-born jockey Lao Weng Hong, whose career was interrupted by a shoulder injury, had a good reason to be on Cloud Nine, after Super Six gave him his first win in seven years.

Spalalo beat only one home in the Jockey Club Sprint.

Nov 28: The New Paper tipster Brian Miller was in super form. Six of his first choices won, with the other two finishing second in the eight-race programme.

DECEMBER

Dec 5: The aptly-named Good News gave trainer Alwin Tan his 200th winner since he started training in 2010.

Dec 14: Spalato could only beat two home in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint.

Johnny Guitar took the last of the season's black-type races in the Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes.

Laurie Laxon, who was hounded by Alwin Tan in the last few race days of the season, was finally crowned Singapore champion trainer for the ninth time. The final score: 80-78.

Manoel Nunes, who had won the jockey's title a long way out, ended the year with 108 winners.

With 35 winners, A'Isisuhairi Kasim won his second consecutive apprentice jockey's title.

TNP's Tan Thean Loon won the top media tipster title with 295 winners or a 29.7 percent strike rate. There were 993 Singapore races. It was mentioned earlier that there were 1,671 races but 678 of them were Malaysian races.


This article was first published on December 23, 2014.
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