SINGAPORE - August is always a quiet month. Polytrack racing and the Southern Hemisphere horse's birthday means that the chances for those that should have won at two and three are over, with the dross remaining to fight it out in the early season Restricted Maidens or 4YO Initiations.
The wily trainers know this and will often hold back a "good-un" for a quick kill early in the season. Watching trials is very important at this stage of the year.
On top of that, it is winter in Australia and we await the return of the good horses in the Spring.
Europe is at the end of its season, though Goodwood and York are usually of interest, particularly now with horses often having a trial to see whether they will make the long trip in search of the Holy Grail of the Melbourne Cup. For those who have any interest, The Oracle's early Cup tip is the recent American St Leger winner, Dandino.
In Singapore, we welcome back "King" Corey Brown and "Lady" Lisa Allpress to bolster what have been very thin jockey's ranks.
Joao Moreira jetted off to ride a winner at Ascot and then had a short holiday.
Ivaldo Santana and Oscar Chavez suffered significant injuries from falls. Manoel Nunes also fell but bounced back to ride five winners at the next meeting.
Chevez, having got over a fractured tibia, is resuming this week - they are tough, these South Americans!
The season is now eight months old and the trends are well established. The trainer's premiership looks set for a right royal battle with the Oracle's favourite, the Old Master Laurie Laxon, who got his 1,000th winner at Kranji in July and for his 50th for this year at month's end to take the lead.
Hot on his heels are Patrick Shaw, Mark Walker, and Michael Freedman; the latter two being the ones to follow.
Shaw is not called "Polished Pat" for nothing. He works and trials his horses harder than most trainers, and the trials are always strongly indicative of their chances.
The horses present magnificently - anyone who saw Board Walk in the yard last Friday could not help but support it. Currently, over 50 per cent of his runners finish in the top four; unsurprising the way they are prepared.
Freedman is slightly different. His horses rarely go full out in trials. He clearly believes in the adage "you do not get any prizemoney trialling".
Yet, his results are superb. Currently, 58 per cent of his runners finish in the top four.
He normally uses top riders and you always know you will get a run for your money.
Master of Class 5s
Among the others, Sam Chua - the master of the Class 5s - is another interesting trainer.
He clearly doesn't believe in leaving them in the stable and gets them fit through racing.
His number of runners this year is second only to Walker and, while his strike rate is low, they can never be ignored, particularly when dropping in class or with senior riders or top apprentices aboard.
John O'Hara flies under the radar but has a very good strike rate of 46 per cent with favourites, significantly above anyone else and way above industry average of 30 per cent. When supported, his horses often win.
The jockeys are much more straightforward.
Moreira dominates, with Nunes a clear second - well ahead of the rest of the field.
The success story of the year is the Wizard, "Harry" Kasim, who, after a lazy treble in Malaysia, celebrated Hari Raya with family in Kelantan, made a cameo at his old track, Te Rapa in New Zealand, where he won the Asian Young Guns challenge. On returning to Singapore, he promptly rode a double and is on course to smash all apprentices records at Kranji.
It is significant to note that Moreira, Nunes, Munro, Vorster and Harry have ridden over half the winners in Singapore this season.
The astute punter will note that Moreira is generally on the perceived top chance and it will be way "unders" in the betting; that is why he gets beaten on so many favourites as many instances the "Moreira factor" has made them the popular pick.
With Corey Brown back, things may well change but for the Oracle, the Nunes-Freedman, Munro-Takaoka, Vorster-Shaw and Harry-Burridge combinations are always worthy of consideration and the value can rest with those.
A final word on jockeys. For those who watch the racing channel, hang on every word the "Karate Kid" Alan Munro says in post-race interviews - he is gold!
To put a Kiss of Death on a few four-leggeds; first and foremost, War Horse is much better than he showed last Friday.
The Oracle has two words to Walker: Snip him. The other one, War Affair, looks the real deal and should be better suited over 1,400m and 1,600m. He will be hard to beat in the 3YO Series.
Of the more mundane gallopers, two horses that have caught the Oracle's eye lately are Fat Kiddy, who should be ready to win a maiden over 1,400m or beyond and Joyous Express, who should be up to a Class 4 over 1,400m or even a mile.
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