Young career off and running this Friday

Young Keah Yong saddles his first runner Zippy General this Friday, but the newly-licensed trainer said he felt more like he was dipping his toe in the water, and not to expect the moon and the stars at his first few months.

Desmond Koh’s former assistant-trainer opened his Kranji stables on July 1, and realistically, thought his name would only be seen on a racecard in September 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.

New beginnings: Trainer Young Keah Yong with his new charge and first runner Zippy General, picture Singapore Turf Club

“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 1200m suited 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,” said the Ipoh-born Singaporean.

“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 and 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, and after Leck left, he changed yard to new trainer David Kok (himself a former ‘B’ trainer to Leck B) 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, Young 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 who 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 on Friday. 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.”