Register | Login

Singapore aiming to turn back the clock

Author: Howard Wright


If a week is a long time in politics, four years is an eternity in international racing. The Singapore Turf Club is about to find out just what it means to have scrapped overseas competition for that length of time. Having introduced its first international race in 2000, to mark the opening of the magnificent new facility at Kranji, Singapore immediately stepped on to the world stage, attracting some smart fields for the 1m2f Singapore International Airlines Cup. When the 6f KrisFlyer Sprint was brought into the May programme in 2008, the country’s standing as a major player, at least for once a year, was confirmed.

The fixture was in an ideal position to provide a natural progression from the Dubai World Cup meeting, as evidenced by a golden period for the Cup from 2008 to 2011, when the South African pairing of Herman Brown and Mike de Kock made excellent use of the opportunity. In 2008, Brown sent Jay Peg straight from winning the Dubai Duty Free to claim the SIA Cup. The following year French trainer Pascal Bary took the Cup with Gloria De Campeao, who had run second to Well Armed in the Dubai World Cup. In 2010, Gloria De Campeao won the Dubai World Cup by a nose from De Kock’s runner Lizard’s Desire, and there was the same narrow margin between them in the SIA Cup, but this time Lizard’s Desire, who had gone on to be beaten a neck into second place in the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup in Hong Kong, had the edge.

The following year it was Brown to the fore again, with a slightly surprising success for Gitano Hernando, who followed the Lizard’s Desire route but was only sixth to Victoire Pisa in the Dubai World Cup and eighth in the QEII Cup. That was all very well for international contenders, and with excellent promotion drawing overseas media attention, Singapore was rightly in the spotlight. However, rumblings of discontent soon started to be heard among major home-based owners at the sight of millions of dollars disappearing overseas. The rumble grew into a crescendo in the four years from 2012, when Singapore-trained horses managed to fill just 25% of the first four places in the SIA Cup, with three thirds, one fourth but not one win among them.

The KrisFlyer Sprint provided richer pickings, and Singapore’s propensity for unearthing useful sprinters earned nine placings in the first four finishers over the period, but, with half the prize money for this race compared with the Cup, earnings were not high. The crunch came from 2013 to 2015, when both races were won by horses trained in Hong Kong. Other forces were at work, but the flight of Singapore dollars 1,600 miles across the South China Sea did not go down well with owners who would rather have had the substantial prize money distributed among races they believed they were more likely to win, and the Singapore Turf Club caved in.

Now, though, Singapore is looking to get back on to the international racing map, under a radical, reformed strategy developed by new chief executive Chong Boo Ching, a ‘non racing’ man who was formerly president of the American chemicals company DuPont Titanium Technologies. Chong and his advisers have announced a blueprint intended to revitalise racing in Singapore, which includes cutting the number of races in the season from 900 to 800, adjusting prize money to reward quality by making the minimum for Group One races the equivalent of £543,000 and Group Two races £271,000, while slicing almost 50% off Class Five races, and running no race beyond 1m2f. These changes will come into force on 1 January 2018.

A year later the Turf Club plans to reintroduce international racing, taking the extra 12 months for home-based owners to source the sort of high calibre material officials believe will be necessary to be competitive. Replicating past history, two races have been programmed: a 6f event with a prize fund equivalent to £734,000, and a mile race worth £1.6 million. Time alone will tell whether this is the right mix to achieve the objective, because events have moved on since Singapore last attracted international participation in 2015. The first change came within months of Singapore exiting the scene, when the Hong Kong Jockey Club, under the ever alert guidance of chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges nipped in to claim the international Pattern race spot vacated by the KrisFlyer Sprint.

Not only was the Chairman’s Sprint Prize converted from a local Group One to similarly recognised international status, it was added to the Global Sprint Challenge, attaining equal standing to such as the Al Quoz Sprint. At a stroke the link between Dubai and the Far East was maintained seamlessly from 2016. The next change will come next year and also concerns Hong Kong, where the Jockey Club announced last week that the Champions Mile and the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, previously run on the same Sha Tin card a week after the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup, are being brought forward to make a spectacular day’s racing.

Only a clash of sponsors had delayed the amalgamation. All three races have been given significant prize money boosts for 2018, which puts Singapore even further on the back foot. As long as Meydan remains the starting point through the Dubai World Cup, Godolphin Mile, Al Quoz Sprint and Golden Shaheen, and if Hong Kong puts together a world class fixture with the QEII Cup, Champions Mile and Chairman’s Sprint Prize, Singapore may find itself playing third fiddle in the international orchestra.

Share this on:


07 Aug 2018
Issue Number: Issue 647
Seemar can only hope for another upward performance from North America
Dubai playing a key role in British racing, says Jockey Club boss
Busybody Tadhg looks to scale mountains after climbing Hills
Nass’ trial and error style seems to be working wonders for him
Please Select Racing Type For Calender

Online Vote

Number of races in the season