Racing

Spare a thought for See

Lesser-known rider comes frustratingly close to winning Derby on $453 outsider

While the spotlight shone on champion jockey Vlad Duric for Saturday's Singapore Derby victory, spare a thought for the runner-up Elite Incredible's rider, Joseph See.

It was the lesser-known jockey's first Group 1 ride and he certainly went frustratingly close, going down by a neck to Top Knight at the shadows of the winning post in the 1,800m Kranji classic.

"It happened so fast, and the next thing I know, we ran second. My horse gave his all, but unfortunately, we got caught on the line," said a dejected See.

It didn't dawn on him until he was cantering back to the scales that it was the same man who denied him of a feature-race win in 2011 - in the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint over 1,200m. He was then an apprentice.

"I couldn't believe that Vlad has beaten me again in a big race. He beat me on Gingerbread Man in one of the 3YO series races some time back. I ran a close second on Excavator."

Just a week earlier, See thought he would be watching the glamour race from the jockeys' room, just like he has been doing when most Singapore feature races roll around. But a phone call from trainer Cliff Brown suddenly gave him an "incredible" chance.

"When Cliff Brown rang me to give me the ride, I was already in shock - not because he doesn't give me rides; he actually does. But it's more because I never thought I would get a Derby ride, even if I know we are getting our chances now there are fewer jockeys in Singapore," said the 37-year-old Singaporean, who has ridden just two winners this year.

"I checked Elite Incredible's last run and I saw he didn't do too well. I was just thankful for a ride in the Derby, my first-ever, and I thought his barrier one might give us a small chance."

After enjoying a ground-saving run on the rails, Elite Incredible came eye-balling leader Minister at the 800m mark and poked ahead 400m out.

Kranji held its breath for a few seconds. The second least-backed runner at $453 was only a couple of hundred metres away from an unbelievable crowning moment for both horse and rider. But it wasn't to be. Duric masterfully brought Top Knight to beat him by a mere neck.

Many patted See for a great ride, including Brown. But See said the heartbreak of coming so near and yet so far from a race like the Singapore Derby will give him a few sleepless nights.

"Everything went to plan, but I was just unlucky at the line. I won't be able to sleep for a while," he said. "When the other horses opened out, we got a clear run on the inside.

"I decided to tackle Minister early as I knew he was one of the horses to beat. I also knew my horse can stay and I could make it a staying test. I didn't want him to go early, though, just save him for as long as I could.

"At the top of the straight, my horse was travelling so well and we hit the front. For a second, I thought I could be riding the winner here.

"But I was always mindful of Top Knight. When I looked from the corner of my right eye, I could see a light blue flash coming."

In horseracing, nobody talks about seconds. But it certainly gave See a big thrill.

"The Derby is one race I wouldn't really want to watch again," he said. "But I've still got a few years of riding ahead of me. Hopefully, I won't have to wait for a long time to get another chance in a big race like the Derby."

HORSE RACING