Forever Young leads throughout
Trainer CT Kuah's American-bred turns giant-killer in Group 1 Singapore Guineas
No-one could blame former jockey Alvin Kuah Cheng Tee, or CT Kuah as he's known in the racing circle, for screaming his lungs out at Kranji yesterday.
He had good reasons to.
In just 13 months as a full-fledge trainer, the likeable and soft-spoken Singaporean had bagged his first feature-race success - a Group 1 at that - with his Hong Kong-owned American-bred youngster FOREVER YOUNG.
Victory came in the final leg of the Singapore-Three-Year-Old Challenge - the $500,000 Singapore Guineas over 1,600m in Race 9 yesterday - and it was certainly not a hollow win.
All the hype was on the top three runners, who finished 1-2-3 in the series' second leg, the Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic over 1,400m on April 14, with Countofmontecristo beating Could Be Pearls and Jupiter Gold.
Forever Young ran in the first leg - the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint over 1,200m on March 26 - and finished seventh behind Countofmontecristo but only three-and-a-quarter lengths behind.
Kuah cleverly did not enter Forever Young for the Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic and instead opted for the Group 1 Lion City Cup over 1,200m, in which he finished a noteworthy fourth behind Lim's Cruiser, to strengthen his rising star.
It was a wise move that paid big dividends. Forever Young rewarded his supporters with a juicy $71 win payout.
It was Forever Young's third win in six starts and he has amassed about $350,000 in stakes for his Hong Kong owner, Wong Chi Tat.
Besides skipping the 1,400m Singapore Three-Year-old Classic, Kuah also read the race and the day's proceedings very well. From the results earlier in the day, it was obvious that the winners were coming from the forward bunch.
So the plan was to do a catch-me-if-you-can with Forever Young and it worked wonders.
After jumping well, jockey Benny Woodworth took Forever Young to the front. At the halfway stage, his mount was two lengths clear of I've Got A Feeling. Countofmontecristo, who started as the $12 second favourite, was in the box-seat third. Jupiter Gold, the $11 favourite, and Couple Be Pearls ($32) were slightly worse than midfield.
Forever Young straightened up handily. Countofmontecristo overtook I've Got A Feeling to challenge under Glen Boss. Alan Munro took Jupiter Gold up wide for an unimpeded run.
While many thought Forever Young would falter on his run, they were wrong. Instead, the horse was running on plenty.
The big advantage that he had built up saw him safely home by three parts of a length from Jupiter Gold. Countofmontecristo ened up third, one-and-a-quarter lengths away.
The winning time was 1min 34.28sec.
Kuah was grinning from ear to ear at the post-race interview.
"As I've said, this horse has a heart of a lion, you know, No harm giving it a try. I'm happy for the owners from Hong Kong," said the young trainer.
"I think Benny rode a very good race. He sent the horse forward and let them catch him. Today, there's a track bias for front-running horses, you know, so I just told Benny to try and kick forward."
Kuah then revealed why Forever Young skipped the 1,400m leg of the series.
"I felt that the 1,400m was a bit tough for him at this point, so I decided to put him over 1,200m to gain more experience against more matured horses.
The 1,200m Lion City Cup run was the lead-up to this 1,600m race. That's why I skipped the 1,400m."
Woodworth was just as elated picking up a Group 1-winning ride.
"Terrific effort. The first three horses were very strong," said the Malaysian rider.
"It was the trainer's instruction to take the horse to the front and I followed it and I sat on him for as long as possible.
"I didn't want to hit him on the backside because he could swish his tail, so I slapped him on the shoulder and encouraged him, and he just ran on.
"It's difficult to get rides in these big races and, if you get one, you just try your best to get the best out of it."