Larry Foley
Mon, Nov 12, 2007
The New Paper

TRAINERS, jockeys, owners and horses come and go at Kranji. It's the nature of the game.

And, unfortunately, most are quickly forgotten - even those who may have been in the game for many years and won countless races or even championships in their time at Kranji or Bukit Timah.

But win a Singapore Gold Cup and your name will forever be etched in history.

Better still, win a Gold Cup in style or with great drama and your achievements will be talked about whenever this great race pops up.

This is especially true around this time of the year when Gold Cup fever takes over around the stables and the coffee shops.

I was lucky enough to be involved at Kranji for six Singapore Gold Cups, starting with the mighty raider Kutub from the Godolphin Stable, who blitzed his rivals with Frankie Dettori on board in 2001, to Mr Line's win for Patrick Shaw and the Quartet Stable last year.

In between, I had the honour of witnessing Smart Bet in 2002 carry an impossible 59kg on a soft track to beat the pesky Thunderaway.

Zirna showed that girls can win it in 2003 and in 2004 I watched Mark du Plessis knock in his second successive Gold Cup win on Raul.

However, my favourite Cup memory was two years ago when Daniel Murphy and Soo Khoon Beng combined to take out the 2005 running of the Group 1 event and show that anything can happen on the day given an ounce of luck and determination.

A more than capable trainer and held in high regard by his peers, Murphy, now training in England, was not having the best of runs at Kranji. And while Terfel had admirers on the day, a place would have been a good result.

Throw in the fact that a local jockey had not won the race since racing shifted to Kranji in 1999, and you could see why Murphy didn't bother to even wear a jacket to the races that day.

As he settled into his usual seat in the trainers' enclosure next to his good mate Shaw, he looked a man resigned to watching the winner being led in by someone else.

But minutes later, it was an ecstatic Murphy in the winners' enclosure hugging Terfel and shaking the hand of a beaming Soo and telling all and sundry he knew that his horse would win.

And not long after, in a coat borrowed from another mate John Meagher, it was Murphy again, with wife Jade, collecting both the trainer's and owner's trophies in what was to me, a very special Singapore Gold Cup.

Everyone has a different moment that captures the essence of the great race .

I spoke to a few familiar faces at Kranji for their favourite Gold Cup memory...

Andre Ruyters (Singapore Turf Club Senior Racing Steward and owner of 1961 Gold Cup winner Balkan Bambino):

'I would like to say the best race was when my horse Balkan Bambino won the Singapore Gold Cup in 1961, but I was in England at the time and I had to get the results by phone directly after the race.

'While I was very happy to hear that our horse had won the race, it was a shame not to be there to see our colours (black and orange quarters which are still being used at Kranji) go past the post.

'But a few years prior to that, in 1958, a horse called Straits Code won at Bukit Timah in what was a thrilling finish with at least seven horses only separated by a length and a half at the finishing line.

'I knew the owners, Mr and Mrs Teo and he was trained by Rinus van Breukelen and, from memory, the jockey, Abdul Mawi, was the first local-born jockey to win the race.

'There have been a few good Singapore Gold Cups since, but that was the best finish I have seen in the race.'

Michael Maxworthy (race commentator and presenter of Singapore Turf Club):

'For me, there is no doubt that Smart Bet's win was one of the most courageous wins I have seen on any race track.

'From memory, he was carrying 59kg and there was rain on the day and he had to run down Thunderaway who only had to carry the minimum.

'It took him every inch of the straight to do it and it was spine tingling stuff.

'As soon as you arrive in Singapore, you hear a lot about the Gold Cup being the race to win and from that Cup race I could see why.'

Saimee Jumaat (five-time champion jockey at Kranji and winner of the 1996 edition on Zatopek III):

'Obviously, winning the Gold Cup on Zatopek III is my personal favourite moment.

'I can still remember sitting last and swamping them late to win by two lengths - a great feeling.

'Of the others, Smart Bet was by far the best win I have seen.

'I was going nowhere on my mount, and was a bit far behind, but I could see him (Smart Bet) get level with the other horse in the straight and, even from where I was, I knew it was a great fight to the line.

'I didn't know who had won so when I returned to unsaddle, I watched the race on the replay.

'That race stands out as one of the best two-horse battles I've seen'.

Dr Omie Rangabashyam (surgeon and racehorse owner):

'Smart Bet is the obvious choice as he showed what a big heart you need to be a champion racehorse. He was a real beauty. But my dear friend Patrick Shaw ran 1-2 in the Gold Cup last year with Mr Line and War Horn and, while I would have liked my golfing buddy Barend Vorster (War Horn) to have ridden the winner, that was a special day.

'The other reason why last year's win by Mr Line stands out was the way Emily Yong (owner of Mr Line) added class and glamour to the ownership ranks.'

David Lee (former Singapore Turf Club employee, regarded as a living encyclopaedia of local racing):

'I think the year was 1962, which is a long time ago, and there was very heavy rain. Very heavy.

'A horse trained by Doc Rodgers called Water Scout, which was a very good name for the conditions, got up and won at very long odds.

'It was ridden by a battling jockey called S Khamis and together they had no chance till the rain came down and then everything changed.

'A win for the outsiders but everyone was happy.'

Marc Tan (aka The Maverick and former Racing Editor of The New Paper):

'Small but smart is why I can never forget the 2003 Gold Cup.

'The gutsy mare Zirna, weighing out for the race of her life at only 438kg, was the smallest horse in the 16-horse line-up.

'She certainly paled in comparison to eventual runner-up Moon Shadow who, at 522kg, was her heaviest rival in the 2,200m classic.

'But the 84kg difference didn't matter as she swooped down on her rivals wide on the track to give Mark du Plessis his first of two Gold Cup triumphs (the popular Zimbabwean jockey went on to win with Raul in 2004).

'Zirna was all heart.'


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