Alwin Tan gets his 500th winner, finally
It's The Archer who nabs it for the 2016 Singapore champion trainer
It was certainly a long time coming for 2016 Singapore champion trainer trainer Alwin Tan to secure his 500th Kranji winner.
Stuck at 499 after Victory Joy's success on Sept 12 last year, that elusive fifth century finally came in Race 2 on Saturday. But it was not without some nail-biting moments.
The Archer, the second of his three runners for the day, came storming home under former two-time champion apprentice jockey Wong Chin Cheun to finish deadlocked with the favourite and newcomer Malibu Beach.
It took a while to study the photo-finish before the Falcon Racing No. 5 Stable-owned three-year-old was declared the winner - by a mere short head in the $20,000 Open Maiden event over the Polytrack 1,200m. He paid $42 for a win.
Racegoers have been wondering about Tan's recent poor fortunes - his worst since he started his training career in 2010 with 38 winners. He won the champion trainer's title with 90 winners in 2016.
Last year, he garnered only five winners - the first time his winning tally dropped to single digit. His previous lowest was 25 winners in his second season.
So, to break the four-month drought with The Archer for his milestone success was certainly a huge relief for the down-to-earth trainer.
"To get the winner today is a big relief and a big motivation for myself and my staff, who have worked so hard. Hopefully, we can look forward to more winners from now on, and more support," said Tan.
"We've waited many months for that winner. The long wait was mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic."
Like many trainers, the 59-year-old Singaporean has been affected by the pandemic, which shut down Singapore racing for three months from early April to July 11.
With few new horses and quite a number of horses transferred out, his string was depleted to just over 20 horses. He found some new Hong Kong owners, but the pandemic has put their plans on hold.
"We were already going through hard times, but the pandemic made it even harder for us," he said. "By October, I was feeling very lost, as we still had no winners after Victory Joy won back in September.
"But, thanks to the owners who have never stopped supporting me, I kept believing in myself and my staff.
"I have to thank my loyal owners for having stayed with me through these hard times. Hopefully, we will have a better season this year.
"I believe the worst is behind us. Even when I was going through my darkest period, I never thought of giving up, as I've always believed with hard work, we can turn things around."
Tan knew The Archer was his best chance. The horse had run well with a second to Relentless on debut and was checked in his second start, when seventh.
With the second-run syndrome over and a gelding operation, the bay/brown gelding was third-time lucky.
Parked around midfield early, he was still some distance behind as they swung for home.
Happy Friday moved up to join the tiring leader Global Spirit on straightening. Malibu Beach also challenged and hit the front with only 50m left.
But he found no answer to The Archer's powerful run on the outside.
Wong reckoned the horse "is still a baby" and was not fully focused for most the of the race.
"I think he'll get better as he becomes more mature," he said.