Singapore champion trainer Alwin Tan recognises that the defence of his 2017 title is starting to look like a tough ask, but that doesn’t mean he has thrown in the towel.
Just four months ago, a two-horse race with 2015 champion Mark Walker looked on the cards when the two trainers were locked in a close battle, with Tan even leading Walker by one winner by end-April.
The ding-dong match did not last long. Wins soon dried up for Tan. In May alone, he saddled only one winner, Nova Missile, while Walker was flying.
In June, the Kiwi scooped up a prodigious haul of 15 wins. Tan’s four paled in comparison, and it had been the same fine trickle since to the point the gap has now widened to 21 winners – Walker on 63 and Tan on 42.
Shadow Of War will link back up with former winning partner Manoel Nunes on Friday, picture Singapore Turf Club
Renowned for his war strategist training method, Tan was in a half-full glass mood when assessing the situation.
“Based on the way Mark is going and the gap in between, it’ll be very tough to catch him,” said Tan.
“While his horses have been hitting top form, mine have unfortunately hit a flat spot in the last three months. Most of them have reached their mark and I have sent a few horses to Malaysia as well.
“Even if my horses win again, I don’t foresee his losing the momentum. He also has the numbers.
“But we’ve been in this game long enough to know anything can happen and we will still try very hard to catch him.”
Despite the drop in numbers, Tan still has 65 horses on his book, a sizeable string he can tap into to mount a late charge against Walker.
This weekend, he has entered 26 nominations split between Friday and Sunday. One of the races where he holds a strong hand is Friday’s $80,000 Class 3 race over 1000m which he gang-tackles with three runners – Conflight, Shadow Of War and Mystic Master.
Tan is not exactly brimming with confidence with the trio but does hope Conflight can reproduce that apparent resurgence of form at his last outing when third to Chalaza in a BM67 race over 1000m on July 30 and Shadow Of War will improve from his first-up effort when a fading eighth after leading in a Class 3 race over 1100m.
“Conflight is somewhere close to his old form, I think,” said Tan.
“Class-wise, he is running in races that are more suitable for him – like middle of Class 3. He is getting older and he doesn’t have the same speed he used to have.
“For now, I will still keep him to 1000m-1200m races. I’m mindful of his old injury and tentatively, if he goes good, I may step him up to longer trips next year.
“Shadow Of War should run a better race after his first run from a long break of six months. He has drawn seven and if the pace is not that fast, he can go forward and park in a handy spot.
“As for Mystic Master, his form is not consistent, but he ran a very good barrier trial (won) two weeks ago (July 27). John (Sundradas) rode him and will ride him on Friday.
“He will probably sit off the pace from the wide gate. I hope he can run well.”
Regular partner Oscar Chavez will ride Conflight while Shadow Of War will reunite with Manoel Nunes, his winning partner at his first two starts.