Young makes debut with Zippy General
New kid on the block fields his first runner at Kranji tonight
After a long journey, Young Keah Yong will embark on his dream career - as a racehorse trainer - at Kranji tonight.
The Ipoh-born Singaporean will saddle his first runner, Zippy General, in the penultimate event, the Class 4 Div 2 race over the Polytrack 1,200m.
But the newly-licensed trainer said he felt more like he was dipping his toe in the water, and not expecting the moon and the stars in his first few months.
Desmond Koh's former assistant trainer opened his Kranji stables on July 1, and realistically, thought his name would be seen on a race card only next month, given the long time needed to buy new horses and get them battle-ready.
But the arrival of a few stable transfers has suddenly given him the means to make an earlier start than anticipated.
"I started off with eight unraced horses, with four more on the way. I was looking at a September start," said Young, who is better known as "Ah Young" by the local racing fraternity.
"Then, a few stable transfers came to me, the first one being One Rar from my former neighbour Shane Baertschiger and then Zippy General from Premier Racing. Two from David Hill are on the way.
"Wade Burridge (Premier Racing manager) is sending another new horse soon, and I thank him for his support.
"My other owners are mostly new owners, a lot of them relatives and friends.
"Zippy General had a short break and he has got fit quite quickly. He was ready to race and I thought that Class 4 race over 1,200m will suit him."
Young, 39, will obviously learn more from the Captain Gerrard six-year-old as he clocks up more races under his care. That learning curve would be the common thread to his string of horses as well as himself.
"To be honest, this year is more about sizing up the competition and building up my team," he said.
"Next year, I will have more runners and things should be much better. I'm not going to rush my horses.
"I'm starting off from humble beginnings, but I remain optimistic about the future."
Such is actually the story of Young's life in racing.
Born in Ipoh in a family completely alien to racing, Young was bitten by the racing bug after he kept walking past the Ipoh racecourse which was next to his secondary school.
"I was fascinated by the sight of horses in trackwork. After I finished college, I told my parents I wanted to work with horses," he recalled.
"My dad was angry. For six months, he didn't speak to me because he said racing was not a proper job, but I had made up my mind. In 2001, I came to Singapore by myself to knock on Charles Leck's door."
The former Singapore champion trainer took him on board as a syce.
Life was tough as he did not know anybody and had to bunk in at the stables among others, but the young lad rapidly rose through the ranks to become stable supervisor.
After Leck left, he changed yard to new trainer David Kok (himself a former "B" trainer to Leck) in 2009.
Through his continued dint of hard work, Young took a closer step to his dream of becoming a trainer when he was granted his assistant trainer's licence in January 2010. Two years later, he moved to Koh where he said he learned the most.
"Desmond was a boss, a mentor and a friend. He gave me the freedom to run a stable as he was often away," he said.
"I also learned a lot from Charles, and David and John O'Hara were also people who had an input in making me into the person I am today."
In a nod of sorts to his close ties with the Leck school, Young has booked another product from that school in former Singapore champion apprentice jockey Mark Ewe for his first runner tonight.
But he also has another pool of jockeys to tap into.
"Benny Woodworth, Oscar Chavez and Troy See are the riders who help me at trackwork, and they will be getting most of my rides," he said.
"I also have a dedicated team of four syces helping me at the stables. We are all working hard, but it will take a while before we hit top gear."