Amazing turnaround of fortunes for Saimee as he saddles first runners as trainer on Friday

One of Singapore’s favourite sons will see his name printed on a race programme for the first time again after nearly five years – Saimee Jumaat.

Regarded as one of the finest jockeys to have come out of the Bukit Timah racing nursery, the eight-time Singapore champion jockey has been a household name at the old racecourse, Kranji and also across the Causeway for 23 years until his riding career was cut short by one ride on a horse named Profound on December 7, 2012 – which turned out to be his last ride ever.

Saimee was disqualified for 18 months and fined $50,000 for his handling of the Laurie Laxon-trained horse. The sentence was later reduced to 15 months and a $25,000 fine on appeal.

New trainer Saimee Jumaat gives jockey Oscar Chavez his instructions for Rainbow Royal before his barrier trial on Thursday, picture Singapore Turf Club

It was his second offence after Diamond N Ace in 2006. Saimee served his time, but knowing his future as a jockey was up in the air, he decided to switch to training instead.

Even then, it was not a cut-and-dried move given his antecedents. But after two and a half years learning the somehow similar but at the same time different craft of training horses with trainers Steven Burridge and Sonny Yeoh (from stable supervisor to assistant-trainer), Saimee, the kid who learned to ride horses while following his syce-father to work at the old Bukit Timah track, will saddle his first horse as a trainer this Friday.

By sheer coincidence, his first runner shares a similarity with him – Raheeb is also a newbie as he will also be at his racing debut and it will be in a Group 2 race for good measure, the Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m). Should the fairytale start not happen, Saimee still has a second bullet in Amazing Man in the next race, the $60,000 Pitstop 2012 Stakes, a Class 4 race over 1200m.

If he was a nervous wreck inside, he certainly did not show it, probably feeling more of a buzz. After all, he has been treading the same industry path for 28 years. Just a slight reversal of roles, but it’s still the same business of winning races.

“I had no idea it was a Group race! He’s a two-year-old and he was ready and when I entered I found out it was a Group 2 race,” said Saimee, the only local jockey to have annexed a Singapore Airlines International Cup during its existence, with Ouzo in 2000 at the very first edition.

“The horse had to start somewhere. I guess I’m throwing him in at the deep end, but he’s fit and ready and unbeaten at his two barrier trials.

“When I was told to start one month (July 1) earlier than planned, it worked out okay for me as my horses are mostly from Sonny and they were already in work.

“Of the 28 horses I have now, 60 per cent are unraced new horses while the rest came from Sonny. They all moved to my new block on July 1.

“These last few weeks have been very busy, but I’m really excited with this new chapter of my racing career, along with my new staff.”

A father of three, two boys, Dylan and Lachlan and one girl, Maddie, Saimee admitted to having gone through a major upheaval in his life after the Profound episode, staring at a bleak future, but was now grateful for the third lifeline.

“It has been a turbulent roller coaster ride and if not for my wife Nikki, I might have given up. She’s a lot tougher than me and she has supported me through thick and thin, and so have my three kids,” said Saimee in his claret stable colours at Thursday trackwork.

“I take this opportunity to thank the Singapore Turf Club for giving me a chance to still work in an industry I love so much. It’s a new challenge as a trainer but I’m ready.

“Yes, I’ve been a jockey for many years and I think I know horses well, but becoming a trainer is quite a different world.

“As a jockey you follow and you know the form of the horses, but once you jump off and give your feedback, you go looking for that next ride. But as a trainer, you have to do everything back to front, whether it’s the feeding, the training, the medical treatment, not to mention the PR side with the owners!

“Here I have to thank both Steve and Sonny for their guidance and opportunity. I’ve learned a lot from them, but I know I still have a long way to go.

“Riding and training are so different. I think the main difference is mentally, it’s more stressful as you have to take care of more things and you have more responsibilities.

“Last time I told the trainer what was wrong with the horse and I walked off, now I have to fix it myself!”

Saimee, who still rides trackwork but only if he has to, will be giving two different jockeys the leg-up for his first two runners, one he knows well for having been fierce rivals on the track for the longest time, the Panamanian-born Oscar Chavez, and the one, much younger, but who he has taken a shine to, Malaysian apprentice jockey Shafrizal Saleh.

“I won’t have stable jockeys per se, as I was a jockey myself and I believe some jockeys suit some horses better,” said the winner of more than 1,300 races, including countless at Group level.

“Vlad Duric has ridden three winners for Sonny, Anonymous, El Camino and Hee’s Forte, who are now with me. We get along well not to mention he’s also a good friend of mine, so I’ll be using him a fair bit.

“But I’ve also known Oscar for a long time, and he’s been helping me at trackwork. So he rides Raheeb while Shafrizal has been riding some of Sonny’s horses before and it was natural he gets on Amazing Man, a horse he knows well.

“I think Raheeb has shown good qualities right from the start. My track rider Noh Senari thinks he’s a nice horse.

“Amazing Man is probably my better chance to get a win at my first day at the office. He’s well-in as he’s got the claimer Shafrizal on him.

“By coincidence both have drawn 11. We’ll just have to see how things go, and more importantly, hopefully, both come through their race all good.”