Reading between the lines and from what is being chatted about, racing in Singapore is in a very strange place. Literally. Then again, for those of us who have had to spend any length of time in the Lion City, Singapore will always be Swingabore and a very strange place where nothing is quite what it seems and SPGs – Singapore Party Girls – are always ready to pounce and cling on for dear life.
Unlike its dynamic neighbour Hong Kong, Singapore racing is not powering ahead as expected. It’s not even plodding along. The embarrassing decision to call time on Singapore’s annual flagship International Race Meeting with the Kris Flyer Sprint migrating to Hong Kong under a new alias – the Chairman’s Sprint Prize – led the racing community to speculate loudly on whether it was the culmination of a massive dummy spit by the Singapore Turf Club at the annual plundering of the rich features by international horses and their connections – particularly from Hong Kong.
Whatever the reason, from a global racing perspective, Singapore racing has lost its cachet. With racing under intense challenge and competition from a raft of mainstream sports, and forced to pander to the demands of a very much spoilt for choice demographic, staging a prestigious international racing event provides racing with rare bragging rights during its equally rare yearly moments in the sun. It’s what racing carnivals and feature race days are all about, domestically as well.
But Racing Carnivals are not born overnight. They take many years to develop, even decades. The Melbourne Cup Carnival and Royal Ascot in their present ultra successful incarnations, Hong Kong’s December International Race meeting, the Dubai World Cup, the Japan Cup, have all been built up by the strategic and very progressive and shrewd planning by racing administrations who recognize the truth in the wisdom of the saying “the ox is slow but the earth is patient”.
With many International racing carnivals, there are cyclical shifts in the origins of the winners of the features between the locally-trained horses and the visiting internationals. We’ve seen these cycles at Ascot, in Melbourne and in Hong Kong. And the cycle can itself depend on the quality of the international visiting horses, trainers and jockeys. There’s no definitive manual categorizing the right type of horse that fits a prototype. That takes years of acquired knowledge.
The reality for Singapore is that the quality of the locally trained horses, whilst improving, is yet to reach the competitive standard with the international visitors who had been able to plunder the riches on offer – the exception being Rocket Man, the champion Australian bred, South African owned, expat South African trained sprinter. Rocket Man should be proof enough that Singapore is capable of producing world class horses as the quality of its racing improves.
But there is more convincing evidence. Ever heard of Joao Moreira? That’s right “the magic man”. Riding in Singapore helped put much of the “magic” into this extraordinary world champion jockey who has taken his “magic” to new levels in Hong Kong. The hijacking – okay, tempting, wooing, cajoling – of Moreira to Hong Kong was a mighty coup for the HKJC. And let’s not be naive enough to think that the Singapore Turf Club wouldn’t have been somewhat miffed at losing its star attraction. Then again, they hardly marketed their golden goose. Lethargy and taking good marketable talent for granted is a dangerous thing. The HKJC? They made a song and dance about signing up Joao Moreira.
The hasty retreat by the Singapore Turf Club into la la land smacks of poor judgment and short term vision. And heaven knows, racing the world over is dogged by short term vision and poor judgment by administrators and administrations. And absolutely one-dimensional and – what’s the word again? – stupid and naive human resources boffins from the age of the Brontosaurus.
As for Singapore racing, it’s also facing challenges on other fronts. The departure of one of their leading trainers – Michael Freedman – back to Australia and the rumoured retirement of Laurie Laxon will leave a large dent in the training ranks. And unlike Hong Kong, there are no queues of big name International trainers knocking on the doors of the Singapore Turf Club to be licensed there. Hardly.
On the jockey front, the situation is confusing to say the very least. Danny Beasley and Vlad Duric, who surprisingly and hurriedly left Singapore, and returned to their native Australia setting the rumour mills alight, have been re-licensed and returned to the luxury of the two days a week racing model – and all done almost surreptitiously. Very strange, indeed. We wonder aloud if and when our old mate Malcolm Thwaites may return to train in Singapore??? It wouldn’t surprise us.
Reposted with kind permission of Racingbitch.wordpress.com