Racing

Trainer Khoo’s faith in ‘lucky’ Koh pays off

All-the-way winner Unconquered gives jockey his first winner of the season

Luck is paramount in horse racing. Everyone knows it.

With that in mind and a touch of sentimentalism, it paid off handsomely for trainer Leslie Khoo at Kranji on Sunday.

The former top local jockey had felt that jockey Koh Teck Huat was the lucky charm when his charge, Unconquered, was promoted from fourth to third at his previous start on April 18.

Trainer Mark Walker's Exdream was third past the post in that Class 4 race over 1,200m, but was disqualified after his rider, apprentice Hakim Kamaruddin, weighed in lighter than what he weighed out.

So, it was Lucky Koh, who was aboard Unconquered for the first time, to earn the promotion to third.

Such trivia might slip under the radar of most, but not Khoo.

He could have been concerned Koh was the only jockey left without a winner this year, but to be the rider of the horse who made it for the tierce through a shot of pure luck was a better omen.

"TH was very lucky when they got third place, after the Walker horse was disqualified," said Khoo.

"I thought maybe he has the luck with this horse, and that's why I booked him again today.

"But he actually rode the horse very well as well, and he's again given him a very good ride today. I told him this horse has to go forward.

"The wide barrier (10) put me off but as he is a frontrunner, there is no other choice. There weren't many speed horses, so I told TH he must try and come across and lead.

"He's a decent horse in Class 4. They were coming at him, but he hung in till the end."

Koh, whose last winner for Khoo was Peregrine Falcon on April 22, 2018, was delighted to get the monkey off his back.

"I'm very happy I finally got a winner. It's so hard to get a winner these days," he said.

"This horse has been working well since his last start. He's improved a lot.

"From the wide draw, I had no other choice but to go forward or we would get caught wide. There weren't many speed horses in the race and I was confident I could come across."

Koh managed to secure the lead after the third-widest barrier.

Turning for home, his mount, who was supported at $32 for a win, still held sway by a comfortable margin.

But Koh soon had the looming shadow of a familiar horse onto the Polytrack. It was The Wild Bunch, a horse he had always ridden until Sunday. The Jason Ong-trained chestnut gelding had Oscar Chavez astride.

The eventual $13 favourite Strong N Best was also finishing like a mail train on the inside under a strong ride by South African jockey Juan Paul van der Merwe.

But Unconquered did just like his name suggests: He was down but not out. Strong N Best fell short by a neck, with The Wild Bunch boxing on for third, half a length away.

The winning time was 1min 11.27sec for Unconquered's third victory in 44 starts.

The brown gelding used to be owned by famous Kiwi trainer Graeme Rogerson, who prepared 2003 Golden Slipper winner Polar Success, who was ridden by Danny Beasley.

Sunday's success was his first for S Eleven No. 2 Stable.

All in, the six-year-old Australian-bred has amassed more than $240,000 in prize money.

HORSE RACING