It's payback time for young champ
CC Wong clinches his first Singapore champion apprentice title
It's no secret that Wong Chin Chuen - or CC Wong as he is known is racing circles - has "good hands".
He wouldn't be Top Apprentice if he didn't have "it". But do you also know that CC has a "good heart"?
For someone who is 23 and on the cusp of adulthood, he has his priorities right.
In an interview, the newly crowned champion apprentice jockey, while celebrating the present, was more concerned about its implications in the future.
"Sure, winning the title was great," he said.
"I worked hard for it and I am thankful to so many people. But more important to me is that now since I am more secure in my job I can work towards achieving another goal."
CC had revealed earlier that he had a tough childhood.
"Of course, I am going to try my best. First, I will have to prove to owners and trainers that, even though I am now a one kilo-claimer, I can still bring home winners. If I can get that message to them, I should do okay." Newly crowned Singapore champion apprentice CC Wong, on next year's challenge
Born in Sungei Petani in Kedah, his parents divorced when he was nine and he and an elder brother were brought up by their mother.
"It wasn't easy for her," he reminisced.
"She worked really hard to make sure there was food on the table. I always reminded myself if I did well in adult life, I would make her life better.
"Now I am okay, lah," he said, with a grin which made his small eyes grow even smaller.
"I have some money, so I can start supporting my family."
Right now his mother lives in a rented house in Penang. In time, CC hopes to buy her "a little house".
"That will make her happy," he added.
Not one for extravagance, CC arrived for the interview dressed in mismatched work clothes - Nike shoes and an Adidas track top. He had just returned from a short family holiday in Phuket and was ready to start "work" in his master's yard.
That's trainer David Hill and his daughter Samantha.
It was in July last year that they took him in and, together with many others helped hone his skills. Until then, CC worked with Dr SH Tan at the Penang Turf Club, where he topped the apprentice list in 2014.
"Until I went to Dr Tan's yard, I had never been near a horse," he laughed.
"He taught me most of what I now know. Dr Tan's son, Tan Kah Soon, who was with Mr Hill's yard, helped me get settled in Singapore.
"But I was really never alone. Mr Hill and Samantha gave me the guidance and trainers like Desmond Koh, Cliff Brown, Shane Baertschiger, John O'Hara and others gave me a leg-up on some of their better horses."
That definitely helped the young apprentice notch up 31 winners in the just-concluded season which, by CC's own admission was a "terrific ride to the title".
Recalling his charge to the crown, he said: "Early on, I rode plenty of seconds, maybe 40," he said.
"It was frustrating but I never gave up. I knew if I tried my best, the results would come. True enough, my luck changed around July and August and, by late September, I was trailing Troy (See) by about 10 winners."
Then came that magical weekend of Sept 30 and Oct 2 when CC booted home five winners.
"I knew then that the chase was on," he beamed.
Trainers, recognising his worth, trusted him with the good rides and, by the end of October, he was leading the pack.
"It was a really nervous time. But I finally made it," he said.
So, is the young champ looking forward to the new season with confidence?
"Of course, I am going to try my best," he said.
"First, I will have to prove to owners and trainers that, even though I am now a one kilo-claimer, I can still bring home winners. If I can get that message to them, I should do okay."