Zy Nor Azman wins first Singapore race

Former New Zealand-based apprentice jockey Zy Nor Azman finally clinched his first Singapore win at his 12th ride on Friday night.

Now a full-fledged apprentice jockey indentured to Kiwi trainer Bruce Marsh, the 29-year-old Singaporean made no mistake aboard the mildly-supported Mings Man ($63) in the opening event, the $35,000 Class 5 Division 1 race over 1200m.

A former Singapore Training Academy for Racing (STAR) graduate, Zy was first apprenticed to Dr Yeoh Kheng Chye, his brother Sonny Yeoh (both now retired), before spending the most time (four years) with Marsh, the one who eventually sponsored his attachment to Cambridge trainer Ralph Manning in 2013.

Mings Man holds off Castle Queen (Alan Munro) to give apprentice jockey Zyrul Nor Azman his first win, picture Singapore Turf Club

The three years of cutting his teeth against the likes of Opie Bosson, Mark du Plessis and even now fellow Kranji hoop Craig Grylls certainly showed in his faultless handling of Mings Man.

Digging up the Nadeem eight-year-old to dash straight to the head of affairs, Zy then proceeded to drop anchor once he secured the steel.

Cassis Oolong (Mohd Zaki) and Barnburgh Lad (Benny Woodworth) were in close attendance three abreast, but Zy was still able to give his mount a breather midrace before stoking him right up 400m out.

Switching the whip to his left hand, Zy called upon Mings Man to tap deep into his petrol tank as Castle Queen (Alan Munro) loomed up with an ominous run on the outside, but that first elusive win on his home soil was finally his for the taking as Mings Man managed to hang on by a head from Castle Queen with Aurora Australis (Derreck David) third another 1 ½ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 13.23secs for the 1200m on the Polytrack.

With 29 New Zealand wins under the belt, Zy obviously already knew the sweet taste of victory, but that new milestone was still worth savouring.

“It’s great to get this first win out of the way,” said the former Polytechnic student in Intelligent Building technology.

“Bruce has been putting me on a few good horses and I knew that first winner would eventually come my way.

“It’s fantastic, but I would say my first career win is still more special because I won a trophy race, the JRA Trophy with a horse called Illuminati trained by Ben Foote.

“Tonight I just followed Bruce’s instructions which were to follow the leader, but I went forward in the end as we drew two and I didn’t want to get caught wide.

“He was always travelling well. Bruce told me I should switch the whip to the left hand, and as I’m not so strong with my left hand, I probably looked awful in the way I was pushing out in the last bit!

“But the horse was very gutsy and luckily he held on for the win.”

Rather tall for a jockey, Zy can still walk around at 50kgs. It was his natural lightweight which prompted his father to encourage him to apply for the STAR programme after he came across a newspaper ad asking for new recruits to join.

“I was into my second year in Temasek Polytechnic, but the fees were too expensive and I had to drop out,” recalled the Sembawang boy.

“I spent my first years with Dr Yeoh and Sonny, but it was with Bruce that I learned the most. In 2013, he sent me to New Zealand because he already had three apprentices, Zuriman Zulkifli, CS (Chee Seng) Chin and Aidil Feiruz.

“It was meant to be for only one year in New Zealand, but they wanted me to gain more barrier trial experience. So I rode another 15 trials and I ended up staying there for three years.

“My riding master Noel Harris wanted me to head South, but I thought the standard there was not as high. I much prefer to compete with jockeys like Opie Bosson and Mark du Plessis.

“It was a great learning experience but my career is here at home now.”