Song Of Nature pipped stablemate The Wild Prince for a win at his last start, and trainer Jason Ong thinks he can make it back-to-back wins in $30,000 Class 5 Division 1 race in the Kranji opener on Sunday.
The Singaporean trainer was not all that surprised with the All Too Hard four-year-old’s second win on 16 April in a similar race.
“I thought he (Song Of Nature) would run well last start, especially given that we also had The Wild Prince in the race, who would go forward,” he said.
“They ran one-two, so that worked out well, and there is no reason why he can’t go well again after trialling nicely last week (ran second to Mister Dynamo in trial no. 5 on May 4).
“I’ve always liked this horse but he had a few issues. My farrier, Jessen (Dennison) has done a very good job to get him right and we know he can race over longer as well.”
While Ong’s regular go-to jockey Koh Teck Huat was aboard The Wild Prince then, he will hop back on Song Of Nature this time.
He has a game plan; if a horse in his stable is fit and happy, they run. Staying true to his mantra, Ong has seven runners – all with some winning hope – on the solid 11-race meeting this Sunday.
When dealing with finely-tuned equine athletes, it is never simple and race programming has a big say in when they head to the races.
But it is a plan that has seen Ong finished as the top local trainer for the past two seasons, including a fifth in the trainers’ log on 33 wins last year.
Currently, Ong sits seventh on the trainers’ premiership with 12 wins. With his system firing on all cylinders and with enticing owners’ rebates from the Singapore Turf Club on offer for runners, he saw no reason to change.
“The attractive part of owning (horses) is the rebates the (Singapore) Turf Club offers, so no point in having the horses stay in the box if they are fit,” explained Ong.
“If they have a chance – why not run them? In my opinion, it is a lot more value to the owners to have a fit horse that runs regularly.
“In saying that, given we only race once a week, the right races don’t come often. So we look after the horses with care and pick the right races when they do come up. Keep them happy – and let them run if happy.”
While the likes of Opunake (Emergency Acceptor No.2), Fabu, Roda Robot and Missile Rain all have each-way hopes, Ong is hoping the Manoel Nunes ‘factor’ can add another win or two to his 2023 tally.
Nunes – who leads the 2023 jockey premiership on 33 wins, nine more than Wong Chin Chuen – will be riding Engine Start in the $30,000 Class 5 race over 1800m and Major King in the $50,000 Class 4 race over 1200m for Ong, and both look very well-placed to win.
“It’s always nice to have Manoel on a couple,” said Ong, whose last winner with the Brazilian ace was Free and Happy in February.
“Engine Start is not a big horse – pretty small – so I always prefer to have no weight on him. I had been claiming with him recently but with 57kgs in Class 5, I think Manoel will suit.
“His (Engine Start) only win was over the mile and he’s been running over 1200m of late, so the 1800m is a test, but he’s fit, had a solid trial last week (ran fifth in the same trial as Song Of Nature on May 4) and should go well.
“The key for Manoel is to let him relax. The D Course (on the turf) can be tricky but if he does relax in the running, I think he will finish off well.”
Of Major King’s chances, Ong suggested that a good break after a gusty first-up run, where he finished third over 1200m to Nate’s Champion in Class 4 company on April 16, will see him at his best this time.
“Fitness-wise, he needed that last run after a long break,” said Ong of the four-year-old son of Per Incanto.
“I gave him a decent gap – 28 days if I’m not wrong – and he’s had a nice trial (ran second to Sacred Command in trial no. 4 on May 4) to bring his fitness on.
“It’s not an easy task with a horse like him, but he was placed at Group level as a three-year-old (finished third to Golden Monkey in the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic last year).
“This race on Sunday is not an easy one. There are plenty of horses in form. Big Tiger drops in Class and his recent trial (won trial no 3 on May 4 in the time of 1 min 1.19secs) was very good.
“But he’s (Major King) more mature now and hopefully, he can get the job done for Manoel.”
The first race is off at 06h00 on Sunday!