Racing

‘Old man’ Saifudin plays Mr Big Brother

53-year-old Malaysian wins on the John O'Hara-trained $41 chance

He isn't the flashiest of riders. But the veteran from across the Causeway is certainly in the right profession.

At 53 years "young", Saifudin Ismail is an elder statesman of the turf and he still possesses a busload of ambition - not forgetting fire and fury in the way he goes about his work.

We saw it in Race 2 on Saturday when Saifudin, riding the roughie Mr Big Brother in that Maiden sprint over the Polytrack 1,100m, kept his mount going to beat the raging $9 favourite, Reignite, to the prize.

It's always tough to take when the favourite gets rolled.

But the honest punter would be quick to agree that Saifudin rode an intelligent race and deserved the victory.

Sure, he was helped along the way when Reignite lugged in towards the rails at a crucial point of the race.

But, after the dust had settled, the urchin had beaten the aristocrat fair and square - thanks to the old hoop who positioned his mount in the right spot throughout the race.

After jumping cleanly from Gate 10, Saifudin elected to plant his mount in third spot - all the while wary of Reignite who sat a couple of lengths behind.

Saifudin made a bold move on straightening and took the lead. At the same time, Reignite - ridden by A'Isisuhairi Kasim - made a move.

The favourite had found an opening and it looked like a situation where you could truly "drop your glasses" and collect your winnings.

But, obviously, Saifudin was following a different script.

He refused to wave the white flag and continued to scrub his mount along. The perseverance paid off and Mr Big Brother went on to take the race by three parts of a length.

In winning for the first time in 15 starts, Mr Big Brother - who is trained by John O'Hara - set a new class record of 1min 04.45 sec for the 1,100m.

The previous class record - 1min 04.56sec - was achieved by Emerald Hill on April 24, 2012. Guess who were the trainer and jockey? - O'Hara and Saifudin.

O'Hara would have been pleased with how things turned out with Mr Big Brother. He had worked hard on the five-year-old who previously raced as Mr Fat Kiddy.

Out of action for the better part of nine months - his last race was in October - Mr Big Brother was put through the wringer by the veteran trainer.

It certainly paid dividends as his charge eventually paid $41 for the win.

Now that Mr Big Brother has opened his Kranji account, he should go on to win better races.

For good measure O'Hara went on to saddle the winner of Race 6, when Hello Michelle showed a blistering turn of speed to beat the favourite Healthy Star.

Ridden by Juan Paul van Der Merwe, Hello Michelle looked like she would have to play bridesmaid when Healthy Star (apprentice jockey Hakim Kamaruddin) strode clear at the 200m mark.

But the gutsy mare was only just beginning. Picking up speed, she eventually put the race to sleep, beating Healthy Star by a generous neck.

O'Hara will agree that Hello Michelle has been a good mare to have in the yard.

Since taking over training duties from Young Keah Yong, the seven-year-old has won twice - including Saturday's success and, in present company, she can put more wins on the board.

HORSE RACING