Tale of two Cities: CT and Lion City

Just a little over one year after saddling his first career runner – Smart Fortune, who remarkably went on to become his first winner – trainer Kuah Cheng Tee will have his first Group 1 contender on Sunday.

The jockey-turned-trainer, who already had his first Group runner in Forever Young in the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) on March 26, will raise the bar even higher for the same horse by running him in the $800,000 Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m).

For good measure, Kuah will also be represented by another runner in the other highlight of Good Friday’s meeting, the $350,000 Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400m), Golden Thunder.

Kuah may head a small team of only 22 horses, most of them at the third tier of the ratings, but when it comes to taking a stab at glory, and if he thinks he has the right horse for it, he is pretty undaunted.

It is unlikely either horse will garner much support in the market, but Kuah said you can only strike the lottery if you buy a ticket.

“It’s only if you pray that you will receive any blessings,” said Kuah whose tally has hit a decent haul of 15 winners so far.

“Both horses are well and I thought why not take a chance with them. You never know until you try.”

Of the two, it is clear that Kuah will be having a few more goosebumps when Forever Young steps out under Benny Woodworth and saddlecloth No 11 in Singapore’s premier sprint.

The US-bred by Run Away And Hide boasts two wins in Maiden and Class 4 company before running seventh to Countofmontecristo in the Sprint under jockey Derreck David. Kuah decided against stepping him up to the next Leg, the Classic, instead plotting an even more ambitious path.

“I was very happy with his run in the 3YO race. He was drawn wide and could not get a good position, but he still did a good job to finish only three lengths off the winner,” said Kuah.

“He pulled up good after the race, and as he’s just a 1200m horse and it was never the plan to go to the next two legs, I thought why not run him in the Lion City Cup.

“The horse has ability and a big heart like a lion’s! And there was no better way to test that in a Group race.

“No doubt he’s running against horses that are older and have much higher ratings, but I’ve always believed young three-year-olds are fully mature and can better older horses if they have the ability.

“I was hoping he would get in at a lower weight as he’s a Northern Hemisphere-bred horse, but 52.5kgs still gives him a chance. He’s also drawn a better barrier in No 2 and Benny is a proven jockey in big races.”

Turning giant-killer against the likes of Emperor Max, Lim’s Cruiser and Alibi still looks like mission impossible, but Golden Thunder came from left field even more.

The Irish-bred was purchased by Kuah at that ‘live’ Irish thoroughbred sale conducted at Kranji via video conference last year, scoring at his last start, but at Class 5 level.

In the case of the My Man Stable-owned colt by Libourne Lad, Kuah is aware the fairytale is looking more like a tall tale at this stage, but explained he threw him in at the deep end more by default than anything else.

“There are only limited races for Golden Thunder. He’s a miler, not a sprinter, and I couldn’t find a race for him,” he explained.

“I had no other choice but to run him in the second Leg of the 3YO series. My apprentice jockey Desmond Chan (Wei Sheng) works him every day, won on him at his last start, and I saw no reason not to give him his chance.”

Formerly indentured to Leslie Khoo, Chan, who has 21 winners to his name, including only that win aboard Golden Thunder this year, did not seem overawed by the occasion. He had his maiden ride at Group level with Nova Warrior in the Group 3 Rocket Man Sprint (1200m) on March 26, briefly hitting the front in the home straight before being gobbled up to run last to Lim’s Cruiser.

“It’s my second Group ride after Nova Warrior for Alwin Tan. I will just go out there and enjoy that, no matter what happens,” said the Singaporean rider.

“I have no doubt Golden Thunder faces a very difficult task as he will be running against very good three-year-olds like Jupiter Gold and Countofmontecristo.

“But he has maintained his form after his last win and is working well. He galloped yesterday and I held him on the bit as he was quite keen, as usual.

“He normally wears double rings, but he had only normal rings yesterday. He’s got this bad habit of hanging out under pressure, and I hope he goes all right on Friday.

“A big thank you to CT and the owner for keeping me on Golden Thunder in the Group race.”

Chan claims three kilos but won’t be able to enjoy that privilege in the Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic as apprentice jockeys are not entitled to their allowances in feature races.