CC Wong seals second rookie's title
Malaysian-born rider wraps up 2017 season with trainer Desmond Koh's 500th winner, Northern Sun
When Northern Sun whizzed through between runners to take Race 3 at Kranji yesterday for a $71 upset, it provided special joy for his trainer and a big relief for his rider.
For Singaporean trainer Desmond Koh, it was a new milestone in his career with Northern Sun being winner No. 500 since he returned to train at Kranji in 2004, after spending time in America.
"Yeah, it's a good milestone," said Koh. "Just want to thank the club for letting me set up shop here, to all the boys that helped, my staff, so 500 is a good number."
Koh's best season was in 2007 when he saddled 50 winners and finished fourth behind Laurie Laxon in the trainers' table.
He has also won his share of the black-type races, the biggest being the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby with Chase Me with Joao Moreira up in 2012.
For apprentice CC Wong, Northern Sun's half-length victory over $264 rank outsider Dragon Spirit brought his anxiety level down a significant notch.
After all, he saw his three-winner lead for his second successive rookie's championship title whittle to only one winner with fierce challenger R Zawari winning the first two races on the Michael Clements-trained Get Going and the Mark Walker-trained Black Quail.
Zawari stormed home third behind Northern Sun on the Clements-trained Stock Broker.
If he had won, the score would have been 29-all, but Wong still led on countback on second placings.
This would have definitely given Wong added pressure, with each rider still having several rides on the 11-race programme on this final day of the 2017 Singapore racing season.
But, to Wong's relief, the battle for the junior riders' supremacy ended there.
Wong managed to finish a narrow second on Himalaya Dragon in Race 10 and Zawari, too, had another close second on Ancient Warrior in the final race of the season.
So, the final score was: Wong 30 and Zawari 28.
Wong won last year's title with 31 winners, beating Troy See by five winners.
On Zawari's lunge yesterday, Malaysian-born Wong said it gave him the jitters but he had to slog on till the last breath.
"Actually, when I saw him score in the first two races, it gave me a bit of pressure. But, what to do? I just have to be patient and hope for the luck," said Wong, after Northern Sun's second victory in seven starts.
It was vintage Wong on the winner, who appeared to have a big task turning for home.
The Mohd Yusof-trained nine-year-old Dragon Spirit still had a healthy lead going into the straight and was travelling like a skirt-chasing schoolboy.
Behind him were five horses fanned across the track, making it look like Northern Sun needed a lot of luck to break through the equine wall.
Dragon Spirit, under French jockey Olivier Placais' conductor-like whipping, was still going strong with 150m to go.
But Wong persevered and drove Northern Sun through a small gap between runners in the final 100m to dive at the never-say-die leader at full throttle.
It was only in the last 10m or so that his mount raced past Dragon Spirit, who at his age, was brave in defeat, indeed.
"I could see today my horse was very improved from his last start and he had been working well," said Wong.
"Today he won again and congratulations to trainer Desmond Koh to score his 500th winner."
Koh naturally felt happy for Wong, whom he supports a lot.
"That was probably a rapt for him. He did a good job these couple of years. He's got my full support, whatever I can give, and he has lived up to his expectation," said Koh.