Racing

Khoo whistling with double joy

Former top local jockey ends three-month drought with Whistling Grand and Eunos Ave Three

Trainer Leslie Khoo has not had it so good for a long time.

With only three runners at Kranji on Saturday, the former top local jockey saddled a running double, courtesy of Whistle Grand in Race 4 and Eunos Ave Three in Race 5.

His other runner, Supreme Happiness in Race 2, beat only one home.

His wins ended a three-month drought for him - and it was Whistle Grand who also gave him his last win, when he wore blinkers, on Sept 5.

Despite the good day at the office, the overall season's tally had been anything but prolific for Khoo, who is enduring one of his worst campaigns since he returned from Ipoh in 2008.

Whistle Grand and Eunos Ave Three were his only winning horses since racing resumed on July 11 from the three-month Covid-19 shutdown, and there are only three race days left to the season.

The double certainly lifted Khoo's morale, but to saddle only eight winners for the season is a far cry from his career-best of 66 winners in 2011.

That year, he finished runner-up to former Kranji trainer Patrick Shaw in the premiership table.

"Most of my horses have dropped form this year, but some have picked up after the break, like Whistle Grand," said Khoo.

"He's actually been improving since he wore blinkers. He's by a stallion whose progeny tends to get better as they get older."

Whistle Grand opened as the favourite in the $50,000 Class 4 Division 1 race over 1,400m on turf, but drifted to $37 for the win.

The five-year-old New Zealand-bred gave Khoo and his supporters a scare when he jumped out last. Last-start winner Lucky Imperator and Asgard Massif disputed the lead.

But Zyrul Nor Azman, who rode Whistle Grand to a fast-closing second last time out, would not let this one get away this time.

He made his move from the bend and straightened wide.

For a moment, it looked like the effort came a bit too late. But a few whacks of the whip brought Whistle Grand up to beat Lucky Imperator by a head.

The winning time was 1min 23.19sec on the Short Course B.

"I galloped him midweek and he felt good. The last time I rode him, he took a while to come out," said Zyrul.

"This time, Leslie told me to go early from the 400m and I made sure I came out earlier. It was a lot of work in the straight, and it's worked out all good."

With his third win from 16 starts, Whistle Grand has racked up close to $100,000 in prize money for Khoo's long-time client, He's Dawan Stable.

The following race, Eunos Ave Three scored a deserving 13/4-length victory in the $20,000 Open Maiden event over 1,200m on turf with jockey Ruan Maia astride.

The Pentagon Stable-owned consistent four-year-old had found one to beat in three of his last four starts.

HORSE RACING