22 years on, it's still a delightful Derby dalliance
A look-ahead to Sunday's running of the Emirates Singapore Derby
Most times when previewing a big race, we unconsciously resort to blatant cheerleading.
What's the point? A race like the Emirates Singapore Derby - or, for that matter - any "Derby" sells itself for what it is.
An event forever synonymous with everything equine.
So, do we really need the rah-rah and the pom-poms? Quite honestly, we don't.
Same too with a huge corporation like Emirates Airlines.
It doesn't need to lend its name to this Singapore event to push its product.
But it is doing just that - in an affair which has lasted 22 years, with no signs of waning.
Why do I say that we shouldn't resort to blatant cheerleading? Well, like the airline and its clients, we already have a loyal audience of readers, enamoured with racing for its rousing stimulation and the musings which come with it.
But the scene today is much different from what it was, say, a decade or two ago.
Today, in-home racing is the new phenom.
It has passed its infancy and is now attracting a new audience of couch potatoes who, with the flick of the "remote" can watch horseracing from Kranji to Korea and around the world.
In turn, and sadly, it is drastically diminishing the numbers on track.
Enter, and welcome, Channel 288!
So, a huge "thank you" to the people from Emirates who, loyal to racing in its most realistic form, have continued to bankroll the event with money which others would say could be better spent on a slew of TV commercials featuring those doe-eyed stewardesses in their so-recognisable pill-box hats tilted at just the right angle.
Sure, television is great but television can do just so much.
What it cannot do is deliver into your living room the seduction of the horse and the realities of the racetrack. For that, you must be in the grandstand or out there on the lawn.
No matter how much is plonked into the best-crafted TV commercials, television will never be able to bring you that intoxicating scent of women's perfume in the Corporate Boxes on Derby Day or the heady draught of sweat and sawdust kicked up by the Derby contenders as they trot and walk into the saddling area for that numbing pre-race ritual.
For that privilege, you have to lift your bottom off that sofa and get to the track where the Emirates brand will be festooned on every billboard space, fluttering from flagpoles and where door gifts like the very-popular Emirates bear will be a must-get souvenir at the end of day.
For all that, you have to be at Kranji where your presence will warm the hearts of he people from the airline.
That said, you have to be there on Sunday, when the intoxicating sound of hooves pounding turf will only be matched by the roar from the stands.
And, believe me, on Derby Day there will be banshees up there.
They'll throw inhibition to the wind right until one of the runners, seemingly forever punching the breeze, decides enough is enough, breaks from the pack and crosses the finish line - with his jockey, most likely, standing like a Titan in his stirrups.
At that moment, some lucky owner will forever have bragging rights in racing circles and he'll smile in his sleep whenever he dreams of the day his horse beat them all to win the Emirates Singapore Derby.
Granted, we don't have the best racehorses running in our Derby.
But do you really think Emirates, with its vast knowledge of the game and its huge sporting portfolio, don't know this?
Of course, they do. But they also know that, even with television, the elements of the game and a race like the Derby will continue to retain the true horseman while enticing a new audience to the timeless source of it all - the race and the racetrack.
So it is, as long as people and corporations like Emirates Airlines continue to believe and support the Singapore Derby, we the print media will slog over our keyboards, shamelessly leading the cheers as we tease out the kindest words to describe a great event and a truly generous sponsor.