Young Malaysian apprentice jockey Syafiq Iskandar Rosman notched his first career win after he steered the well-backed Tesoro Privado home in the $80,000 Kranji Stakes C race over 1600m on Friday.
Licensed only this year, the Lee Freedman-indentured rider has had 36 attempts that produced five seconds as his best result - and was at his only ride of the night, and indisputably the best ride he has even been given. He certainly did not let that opportunity slip by.
An impressive winner at his last outing, Tesoro Privado ($20) came under siege inside the last 300m, but Iskandar (his riding name given there is another rider by the name of Syafiq, the name he is better known as) handled the pressure very well.
Tesoro Privado hands apprentice jockey Iskandar Rosman his first win on Friday night, picture Singapore Turf Club
“Thank you to the owner and the trainer for giving me the chance to ride this horse,” said Iskandar who first honed his craft with Penang trainer Jerome Tan before moving across the Causeway, originally to Steven Burridge, followed by Laurie Laxon and finally Freedman.
“The boss told me to use the horse’s speed to lead, but if someone else is faster, to take a sit. I was very happy where I was in second position.
“Simon’s (Kok Wei Hoong) horse (Solaris Spectrum) was faster, but I knew he would come back to me. I went for it when we turned for home, and even though we hit the front a bit too early, I just kept riding him out.
“I could feel the other horses coming, but I was only worried about my horse. Luckily, the winning post came on time.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. I’m very tired from the ride, but also very happy I got my first winner.”
The win certainly vindicated Freedman in entrusting a leading stable chance in the hands of such an inexperienced rider.
The Australian trainer said the four-kilo allowance was the main attraction for the daring engagement (Tesoro Privado was weighted at 59.5kgs), but he was also backing his own judgement.
Reputed for having an eye for talent throughout his glittering training career in Australia, with champion jockey Damien Oliver his finest success story as a master of apprentice jockeys, Freedman said Iskandar caught his attention from Day 1, and that he had really improved out of sight since returning from a collarbone and finger injury incurred in a race fall in May.
“When I read what was written about (my decision to put Iskandar on Tesoro Privado), it sounded like I had lost my mind!” said Freedman jokingly.
“I’ve always seen good qualities in this kid, and I’ve noticed he’s been riding good races since he came back from injury.
“That’s why I threw him in at the deep end as he’s done nothing wrong so far. I told him to roll forward if you have to and take a sit if someone else goes forward.
“The horse was hard to beat once he came to the outside in the straight. The kid rode him a treat and this win is more about him than the horse.”
Iskandar listened to Freedman’s instructions to a tee when Solaris Spectrum showed his intention to dictate terms. He took a drop back and bided his time.
Sensing that the leader was getting the staggers coming to the home turn, Iskandar decided it was time to throw out the anchors. In one fell swoop, Tesoro Privado hit the front but there were still 300m to go – and a few backmarkers breathing down their neck to repel – before he could get that first sweet taste of success.
Among those who could deny Iskandar that defining moment were favourite King Louis (Barend Vorster), who had launched much earlier this time as he came out three deep around the home turn, outsider Supernova (Zyrul Nor Azman) and Magnificent Gold (Michael Rodd).
But the night belonged to the 24-year-old man from Kuala Lumpur. Well poised in the saddle, even if there were still a few rough edges in need of further polishing, Iskandar acquitted himself very well in keeping his mount’s momentum flowing all the way to the line.
The Argentinian-bred four-year-old son of Orpen went on to score by half-a-length from Supernova with Mr Dujardin (Vlad Duric) steaming home late for third place another three parts of a length away.
King Louis, who was first-up since his Singapore Guineas second, probably felt the pinch late, but still ran a laudable fourth another 1 ½ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 36.03secs for the 1600m on the Short Course.