Living up to its true tradition
BELLES OF THE BALL
If you're wondering what women in tights have to do with the noble sport of horseracing, well, we're talking about the very-popular Turf Belles - a beauty pageant of sorts where good looks and some equine knowledge counts in the end.
Yes, we're also waxing lyrical about the SIRF, an annual event which brings racing beyond the racetrack and into the city centre and the heartlands.
This year's event began on April 26 and will culminate with the running of the two big races - the $3 million Singapore Airlines International Cup over 2,000m and the $1 million KrisFlyer International Sprint over 1,200m - tomorrow.
Back to the Belles - and why not?
So far, the 13 women, who were carefully selected from a talent search, made their first public appearance at Bugis+ on the afternoon of April 26 - and boy, were they all winners.
Yes, come tomorrow, racegoers will have stars in their eyes when they take in the beautiful thoroughbreds just prior to the start of the SIA Cup.
Last year, the Belles carried the flags of the two feature races at the opening ceremony.
Tomorrow will likely be the same.
But, before the grand finale, the pretty Belles had done their part for charity.
Looking chic in jockey silks depicting the past 13 SIA Cup winners, the Turf Belles were recently seen with staff from the Singapore Turf Club in the "Caps for Charity" event, where they sold specially-designed SIA Cup caps for a good cause.
If you were one of those who bought a cap, we say "thank you", as all proceeds will be donated to the Club's adopted charity - Thye Hua Kwan EIPIC Centre @ Woodlands.
Since their introduction to the public, the Belles were also well received when they made their appearances at a fun-filled roadshow at Jurong Point earlier this month.
HORSESHOES AND SOME HISTORY
But it hasn't been all about the girls.
For those keen on knowing what goes on at the turf club, there's the Corporate Social Responsibility and Equine Exhibition that takes a stroll down memory lane.
Reflect on the Singapore Turf Club's milestones and learn about the club's efforts in contributing and benefiting the community and society, while feeding your curiosity about horses through the Equine Exhibition.
Replacing the Belles, the stars of the exhibition have been the club's four-legged mascots - Racer and Clover. Real darlings, these ponies were true ambassadors.
So you think you're the sporty type? Well, the SIRF once again challenged the public to test your arm and accuracy at the Horseshoe Pitching Competition - with the winner receiving a $2,000 cash prize.
Looking for something more gentle on the arms?
Then there was that opportunity to try your hand at the Sand Sculpture.
And, like always, it unearthed plenty of "building" talent.
SILKS WHICH SPELL SUCCESS
All through the festival, the Belles have been at the forefront. There were 13 of them this year.
Come 2015, there will be 14 Turf Belles - the latest one sporting the racing silks of this year's winner.
Will those colours be any flashier than the silks of green with black trimmings worn by last year's winner Military Attack (right)?
Or the bright yellow with those pale blue-and-white striped sleeves which the jockey of Chinchon wore when beating all in the 2012 event?
Right now, we can't say what colours the winner of the 2014 event will be wearing.
But, be it the colours of a home-grown talent or that of an overseas visitor, one thing is certain.
Whatever the hue or how garish the colours, it will be worn with pride by the next Turf Belle next year, as it would be a reminder to us all of the courageous exploits of yet another gallant winner of Singapore's most prestigious horserace.
How time flies - especially when you're onto a good thing. Yes, it's that time of the year when all connected with Singapore racing, puff out their chests with pride, knowing that - yet again - the eyes of the racing world will be locked on Kranji for the running of the $3 million Singapore Airlines International Cup and the $1m KrisFlyer Inernational Sprint.
It's also around this time every year that regular racegoers wring their hands at the prospect of seeing some of the best thoroughbreds from around the world do battle live and up close.
There's more. It's when racing journalists and commentators attempt to become scriptwriters of a great epic as they attempt to pen a scenario befitting the big race.
It's when horseowners of Cup runners dream big dreams and when us, tipsters, try to wring every morsel of information from every possible source just so that we can make an informed selection on the big race. It is never easy.
More importantly, it's also the time of the year when the not-so-regular visitor to Kranji cranes his neck to catch a glimpse of pretty ladies in tight racing silks and more during this Singapore International Racing Festival (SIRF).
It's all systems go with final gallops done
While the attention has been drawn towards the 22 contenders of the two International races all week, it was the comeback of Singapore's four-time champion jockey Joao Moreira that stole the show yesterday morning.
The mercurial Brazilian jockey had not ridden at Kranji since his last meeting on Oct 13 lastyear, when his win-meter stopped whizzing away at 723 wins before he left for Hong Kong to continue his career.
Back for a flying visit just to ride the John Moore-trained pair of MILITARY ATTACK (Singapore Airlines International Cup) and STERLING CITY (KrisFlyer International Sprint) in trackwork, Moreira returns to Hong Kong to ride at today's Sha Tin meeting.
He will return tomorrow in a bid to add the two races that have eluded him in his five stellar seasons in Singapore.
First out yesterday was Sterling City and Moreira put the Dubai Golden Shaheen winner through his paces on the turf course at around 5am.
His mount strode out nicely down the home stretch without being asked too much, clocking 39.2sec for the final 600m.
About 15 minutes later, Moreira was on Military Attack.
Last season's Hong Kong Horse of the Year galloped in company with fellow Group 1 Singapore International Airlines Cup hope DAN EXCEL.
The pair ran first and second last year, when Military Attack sluiced to an impressive triumph.
Yesterday morning, Dan Excel played the hare from the 1,200m as Moreira's mount tracked.
The pair lengthened down the home stretch and Military Attack closed upsides his work mate with minimum fuss.
The John Moore-trained horses went by the winning post in unison without being unduly extended, clocking 37.6sec for the last 600m.
"That was a nice piece of work from my three," said Moore.
"The horses are all eating up, they're putting on good weight and, if anything, they're doing better than they were in Dubai."
Military Attack and Sterling City are the favourites for tomorrow's two Group 1 races.
Kranji-based trainer Patrick Shaw's SIA Cup candidate JOHNNY GUITAR (Barend Vorster) galloped on the Polytrack in 38.6, while stablemate and KrisFlyer contender SLEW OF LODE (John Powell) clocked 37.4.
England's SIA Cup hope MULL OF KILLOUGH (Damien Oliver) breezed over 600m on the Polytrack in 39.4.
Oliver also galloped England's MEDICEAN MAN on the Polytrack in 39.9.
France's SIA Cup aspirant SMOKING SUN went for a canter on the turf under track rider Patrick Lemagny, with American SIA Cup challenger SI SAGE leading him two lengths clear, before eventually passing him in the home straight to run the last 600m in 41sec.
With most of the solid work done, the stage is now set for battle in Singapore's SIA Cup and KrisFlyer tomorrow.