S Noh returns to race riding tonight
Promising apprentice jockey gets new lease of life
When Noh Senari, or more familiarly S Noh in racing circles, could not quite reel in arch-rival A'Isisuhairi Kasim in their close fight to the Singapore apprentice jockeys' championship in 2014, little did he know his last winner Flying Zero would lead to exactly that for a long time.
The then-22-year-old had the local racing scene at his feet.
Most pundits thought it would be his turn for his moment of glory in 2015. Unfortunately, the rot set in.
After a falling out with his master, trainer Michael Freedman, Noh transferred his indenture to Mok Zhan Lun but the opportunities soon dried up.
Whether it was the stigma of leaving a leading stable on a bad note that proved to be his undoing, the truth remained he never won a race again.
Seven months later, he tried his luck in New Zealand, through former Kranji-based jockey Lisa Allpress's help, but the winning post still proved elusive in about 10 rides.
Noh realised it was his personal problems which were seriously hamstringing his undeniably above-average riding ability and, ultimately, his confidence.
In his own words, he described himself as a "dead man walking" during those dark times. Returning home was the best thing to happen to him.
After a brief stint with trainer Kuah Cheng Tee, Noh hooked up in December last year with former eight-time Singapore champion jockey Saimee Jumaat, who was then an assistant-trainer to Sonny Yeoh and one of the frontrunners to getting a racing stable in 2017.
I promise I will work hard. I don't want to disappoint anyone.Apprentice Noh Senari (on his first winner Incredible Son), on his comeback
He has not left Saimee's side since, and three years after being lost in the wilderness, Noh will get his first leg-up in a Kranji race tonight, Sahaba, for Saimee in the $35,000 Maiden race over 1,400m. It will be just four days shy of his last winner Flying Zero on Oct 10, 2014.
Noh received his new licence from the Malayan Racing Association effective, from Oct 1, about two weeks ago.
To Noh, who booted home 44 winners all-up since his very first, Incredible Son for Mok on March 4, 2011, the joy of being able to do the only job he knows is indescribable, but it's also more of a chance to take care of "unfinished business".
Thankful for the renewed faith in him from the Singapore Turf Club and Saimee, Noh, 25, can now appreciate better the privilege of being granted a licence as he candidly opened up about the reasons behind his rise and fall, blaming the sheltered life a young upstart gets in Singapore.
"I became an apprentice jockey very young and didn't go to school. We're trained to become athletes and succeed, and didn't know how to handle other realities of life," said Noh, who is the nephew of former jockeys M Rahman and Rahmat.
"I didn't know the outside world, and when I met with relationship problems, I became moody, and that led to a drop in performance in my riding."
Noh even contemplated calling it quits when every day was a struggle to get rides, let alone winners, but he was in the end saved by Facebook.
"Lisa Allpress saw a photo of me on the mountains in Indonesia on my Facebook and thought I was on holiday in her country, New Zealand," Noh recalled.
"When I told her I had stopped riding, she suggested why not try my luck in New Zealand. I spent less than six months with Graeme Rogerson at Hamilton, but didn't like it there.
"As I had heard Saimee might be getting a stable, I decided to come back and work for him, and I'm grateful to him for his support, his guidance, and now he gives me my first ride back on Sahaba on Friday.
"Sahaba is a horse I've ridden from Day 1. I can't believe the boss has given me a good chance as my first ride back.
"He was the hot favourite at his last start but he reared in the gates and was scratched. Hopefully, he can give me a fairytale comeback win on Friday. I've got unfinished business in Singapore, and I am very thankful for the chance I'm given.
"I will always be grateful to my parents for their support throughout my riding career, but the biggest thank you has to go to Saimee and the Singapore Turf Club, but also to all the boys at the stables, especially my friend Hairi, who is a syce. All these guys make coming to work every morning enjoyable.
"And a special word for Lisa Allpress. If she had not spotted my Facebook page, I might have given up riding there and then.
"I'm in a happy place now and I promise I will work hard. I don't want to disappoint anyone."