Wong fights back on Northern Sun, hands Koh 500th winner

Apprentice jockey Wong Chin Chuen was rattled when rival Zawari Razali's early Sunday double narrowed down his lead to only one win, but a patient ride on Northern Sun in the $60,000 Class 4 race over 1100m eventually handed him a second consecutive title.

The win also brought up trainer Desmond Koh’s 500th winner at Kranji.

The title fight in the senior ranks is already a foregone conclusion after Australian jockey Vlad Duric's win aboard Elite Invincible cemented his lead to five winners on Manoel Nunes, whose double with Great Seven and Red Riding Wood was obviously too little too late.

But Wong had every reason to look over his shoulders. Zawari first steered the Michael Clements-trained Get Going to an all-the-way win in the $35,000 Class 5 race over 1200m, before the Mark Walker-trained Black Quail held off the fast-finishing Crown Gift by a short head in the next race, denying first-year trainer Young Keah Yong of his first winner this season.

Northern Sun (Wong Chin Chuen) races past Dragon Spirit (Olivier Placais) to take out Race 3, picture Singapore Turf Club

Zawari closed in on 28 wins, and though Callixtus did not bring joy to Wong in the $65,000 Initiation race over 1200m in Race 2, he got another cushion aboard Northern Sun.

The Northern Meteor four-year-old gelding broke from gate two, but Wong allowed his mount to ease into midfield as Dragon Spirit (Olivier Placais) went forward to lead.

Things looked bleak for $71-shot Northern Sun when he was trapped behind a wall of horses upon turning into the straight. Dragon Spirit held on to his spot under Placais’s urgings, while The Cosmos (Vlad Duric) and Ladrone (Matthew Kellady) were in hot pursuit.

Things looked dire for Northern Sun until he found his spark at the 200m. He immediately lengthened up under Wong’s urgings to sail past Dragon Spirit by half-a-length to score. Stock Broker (Zawari Razali) came with a withering run on the outside, but had to settle for third another half-a-length away.

The winning time on the Polytrack over 1100m was 1min 5.07secs.

Wong was happy he handed Koh his 500th winner, but it was more so a moment of relief for Wong, though the battle for supremacy was not yet over.

“Congrats to Desmond for his 500th winner. Well done to him,” said the Malaysian-born rider.

“This horse improved a lot from his last start, and today he won again (after he opened his account with Wong in a Maiden race over 1400m on October 22).

“He is a very good worker but he is still learning.

“I saw Zawari scored two wins in the first two races, but what to do? I can only be patient and hope for luck to come my way.”

Indeed, he has to pray for more luck with his remaining rides so as to pad up his score of 30 wins (vs Zawari 28 wins) in order to defend the champion apprentice title. One of Wong’s staunchest supporters, Koh was all smiles at the winner’s stall as he led back his 500th winner.

“It is a good milestone. I want to thank the Singapore Turf Club for letting me set up shop here since years ago,” said the local handler who received his MRA professional licence in mid-2004.

“My boys, my staff and my owners have helped me to achieve this.

“I feel rapt for him (Wong). He did a good job this last couple of years, and he’s got my full support, whenever I can.

“Northern Sun will go for a break now since it’s the end of the season. We will worry about his plans later.”

Owned by Macau businessman Cheng Ting Kong, Northern Sun has amassed over $60,000 in prizemoney at his second win from seven starts in Singapore.