Sports

R Firdhaus looking forward to Kranji debut

With luck, another Singapore Training Academy for Racing (STAR) programme graduate, Firdhaus Rafi, will make his riding debut at Kranji tonight.

The Singaporean, who turned 28 on Tuesday and is indentured to trainer Steven Burridge, will race for the first time only if Codigo gets a place in the 12-horse line-up in Race 5.

Codigo is the first of two emergency acceptors in the Kranji Stakes C event over 1,100m on the Polytrack.

If Codigo is out, Firdhaus (above) will have to wait until Sunday, when he hops aboard the Burridge-trained Nation Theatre in the last event of the 12-race programme.

Indentured to the Australian trainer for the last four years, the former aerospace and mechanical engineering graduate has long waited for that moment.

"I come from a racing family, but I only got interested after I finished my studies. That's when I joined the STAR programme in 2005," said the bubbly Ang Mo Kio lad.

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"My father is a track rider with Leslie Khoo and he is very proud of me becoming a jockey, but unfortunately, my grandfather, who was a trackwatcher, has passed away and won't be here to see me at my first ride.

"Because I had to serve National Service, it's taken me nine years to finally get my licence last week, but it's been well worth the wait.

"I've learned a lot from Matthew Kellady, Harry Kasim (A'Isisuhairi), Jakki Harrison (former assistant-trainer to Burridge) and, of course, Mr Burridge and Julie. Now it's up to me to prove myself."

Julie is Burridge's wife and a former professional jockey, who had nothing but praise for the young lad, even if he is only at the beginning of a long journey in the saddle.

"Firdhaus is a very dedicated young man and is a big asset at the stables. He always puts in 120 per cent in his work, whether it's about doing some push-ups to get his fitness level up or improving on his riding skills," said Julie.

"But whether he can become a good jockey out there, we'll see. He definitely has the right attitude and I wish him well."

Firdhaus is not to be mixed up with Patrick Shaw's new Malaysian apprentice jockey Mohd Firdaus Mansor, who just rode his first Kranji winner aboard Emperor's Banquet last Sunday.

"Mine has an 'h'. It's for handsome," said the cheeky rookie.