Five years ago, Saimee Jumaat bringing up win No 1356 would not have had anyone batting an eyelid.
The former eight-time Singapore champion jockey was a regular visitor at the Bukit Timah and Kranji winner’s circle, boasting a Group-riding record unmatched by any locally-groomed rider.
But since booting home his 1355th winner in 2012, it’s been a long time the 42-year-old had not seen his name up in the lights – until Sunday in a modest $35,000 Open Maiden Division 2 race over 1200m – but as a trainer this time, that of a horse named Shoqeet.
Shoqeet (Oscar Chavez) finishes strongly to give new trainer Saimee Jumaat his first win, picture Singapore Turf Club
Saimee hung up his boots in 2012 after serving a 15-month ban for his ride aboard Profound, but has against all odds turned to a new chapter to his feted career, as a trainer. The syce’s son from Bukit Timah was granted a trainer’s licence and boxes on July 1.
Coming close a few times (three seconds from 22 runners), none closer than runner-up Southern Spur who lost his objection against first-past-the-post Ancient Warrior on August 4, Saimee finally tasted victory with his 23rd runner, Shoqeet for one of his biggest supporters, the Al-Arabiya Stable.
Forever the discreet man, there was no loud celebration at the winner’s enclosure, just a beaming smile that spoke volumes about his state of mind at that priceless moment. He even missed the opportunity of posing with his first winner as a trainer, busier answering the questions from the media.
Sheer relief was his first reaction more than anything else.
“The expectations have been so great, especially with my record as a jockey. To be honest, it’s more of a relief I’ve finally got my first winner as a trainer,” said the now-bespectacled Saimee.
“I’m lucky to have good owners to support me and send good horses to my yard. I’m also happy I got my first winner for Al-Arabiya who is one of the biggest owners at my yard.
“Now that first winner is out of the way, I think the winners should be able to follow up now. The horses are racing well and there is no reason why the others won’t follow suit.
“It’s also great to have Oscar Chavez riding my first winner. We had a great rivalry when I was still riding and I could not have trusted a better jockey as he’s been a good jockey for so long and he continues to ride so well.”
The Panamanian-born Singaporean jockey reciprocated the compliments to his former arch-rival he has fought out countless finishes with.
“Saimee was one of the best jockeys in Singapore and he’s now trained his first winner. I’m just so proud to be part of that,” said Chavez.
“This horse ran a very good race last time at his first race and I expected him to run a better race with the blinkers on today.
“We got chopped off at the start, and it was ‘do or die’ from that point. But at the 600m, when I picked him up and took him to the outside he just sprinted so well. At the top of the straight, he just flew.
“A big thank you to Mansoor (Gandhi, principal owner of Al-Arabiya Stable) for his support, too.”
A four-year-old by Showcasing, Shoqeet trialled in New Zealand before coming to Singapore where he had shown decent form before exploding onto the scene second-up at Kranji.
The race was shaping up as a tussle between Majulah (Craig Grylls) and The Golden Goat (Pregasam Dellorto) halfway up the straight, but Shoqeet ($58) settled the issue with a superior acceleration, going on to score by 2 ¼ lengths from The Golden Goat with Majulah third another two lengths away.
The winning time was 1min 11.88secs for the 1200m on the Polytrack.