Surprise as 2 top-tier horse races scrapped

SIA International Cup contender Si Sage galloping on the grass track with David Flores astride at Kranji on 13 May 2014.
PHOTO: The New Paper

In a shock to the local horse-racing scene, the Singapore Turf Club announced yesterday that the Singapore Airlines International Cup (SIA Cup) and KrisFlyer International Sprint (KFIS) races have been scrapped.

These were the Republic's only international Group One races, a status denoting the highest level of thoroughbred stakes.

In a statement to The Straits Times, the Turf Club said the $3 million SIA Cup and the $1 million KFIS - introduced in 2000 and 2001 respectively - were "no longer necessary" as the races had achieved their objectives.

These include promoting Singapore races internationally and lifting the quality of Singapore horses and local racing.

Perennially boasting strong international fields, the two races were last held in May under the floodlights at the Kranji racecourse.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, SIA called it a "decision of the Singapore Turf Club".

It added: "As to involvement in other ways, Singapore Airlines reviews sponsorship proposals regularly, and they are assessed on their own merits.

"Should there be another opportunity to sponsor a horse-racing event in future, it would similarly be put through a review process."

The national carrier recently extended its title sponsorship of Singapore's Formula One night race till 2017, in a deal believed to be worth just under $10 million per edition.

The end of the SIA Cup and the KFIS means the $1.15 million Emirates Singapore Derby and the $1.35 million Longines Singapore Gold Cup will be left to headline the local calendar.

The news drew mixed reactions from the racing fraternity.

South African jockey Barend Vorster, who is based in Singapore, said it was akin to "taking Singapore horse-racing out of the international map".

"You are not putting yourself out there if you remove those races," he said. "It is a step backwards for Singapore horse-racing."

But veteran trainer Leslie Khoo, who has been involved in racing for more than 40 years, said he understood the decision.

The former jockey said: "Yes, it's a great loss but, to be honest, the quality of the races has dropped as there are not enough top-class local horses to challenge the foreign ones."

No local horse has won the 2,000m SIA Cup race since Ouzo's triumph at the inaugural edition. The 1,200m KFIS race has only two home-grown winners in Rocket Man (2011) and Ato (2012).

To attract new top-tier events, Jupiter Stable owner Tang Weng Fei wants to see more investments locally to breed and develop quality horses.

He said: "We can look at SIA's departure as a sign that Singapore horses need to step up their game.

"It cannot be done overnight. More money and better infrastructure will go a long way towards ensuring better times ahead for Singapore horse-racing."

Additional reporting by Deepanraj Ganesan

This article was first published on September 29, 2015.
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