Racing

Hongchen gives Nurshahril first winner of the year

4kg-claiming rookie may be going to Australia for a riding attachment

Nurshahril Nordin is a name we don't hear very often but it was back in the news in a big way at Kranji yesterday.

The 4kg-claiming apprentice jockey does not get as many opportunities as his fellow rookies, but from the way he drove Hongchen to a thrilling win in the opener, the $35,000 Class 5 race over the Polytrack 1,100m, the nods for rides may go up a notch from now on.

Nurshahril, who had only two previous wins under the belt (Tropical Forest and Real Hero, both for his master Alwin Tan in January and June respectively last year), was seen wielding the whip with greater vigour and effectiveness inside the last 100m .

Barnburgh Lad (apprentice Troy See) and Captain Classique (Nooresh Juglall) were slugging it out upon straightening, but it soon became clear neither would dispute for top honours when Mings Man (apprentice Zy Nor Azman) upstaged them.

But it was the Saimee Jumaat-trained Hongchen, who backed to $36 for a win, and Fast Jet (Oscar Chavez) who finished the best to run 1-2 with three quarters of a length between them.

Mings Man stuck on well for third, a similar margin away.

The winning time was 1min 06.12sec.

Nurshahril, who was at his only ride of the day, was smiling like a kid in a candy store as he tipped the weighing scales for correct weight.

"It's been a bit stressful not to have ridden winners for so long, but I never lost my confidence," said the Singaporean.

"A big thank you to Saimee for the support. I ride a bit of trackwork for him in the morning and he also gives me a lot of advice. My boss Alwin Tan supports me and gives me advice, too."

RIDING OPPORTUNITIES

He said he doesn't get many riding opportunities, but jockey Danny Beasley and former top apprentices Noh Senari and Tengku Rehaizat have also been helping him with his riding.

"They have improved a few things, especially my whipping technique. It has given me more confidence in my riding," he said.

That level of confidence may receive a major boost soon, as Nurshahril said he is on the waiting list for an overseas attachment pending some paperwork.

"I may be going to Australia for more experience. I'm waiting on the riding master, Mr Damien Kinninmont, to let me know," he said.

A seven-year-old by Fully Fledged, Hongchen, who was first prepared by Mok Zhan Lun and Bruce Marsh, was at his first start for Saimee and was bringing up his fifth win for stakes earnings closing in on the $200,000 mark for Phan Nee No. 3 Stable.

Saimee said he obviously did not know the horse well, but from the videos he watched, he had a nice gut-feel what could do the trick, not to mention of Nurshahril whom he thought had improved a lot.

"I saw the horse was overracing a bit with the blinkers on, and that's why I decided to drop the blinkers and put a crossover noseband on so the jockey can still control him," said the former Singapore eight-time champion jockey, who was at his second career win after Shoqeet last week.

"Nurshahril has improved a lot in his riding and he rides a lot of trackwork for me. I've already given him a few rides like Evil Speedo, who ran third last Sunday.

"I told him to put this horse quite close to the speed and he's followed the instructions and rode him very well."

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