After a round of musical chairs, Craig Grylls will be the one sitting in the saddle when Forever Young heads out for the $200,000 Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1400m) this Saturday.
The in-form New Zealand jockey becomes the seventh rider to partner the Group-winning US-bred four-year-old, who will be stepping out for his 14th start at Kranji.
Jockey Benny Woodworth remains by far Forever Young’s most successful partner, having been aboard at two of his four wins, both coming at Group level, the Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) and the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1800m) last year. Alan Munro and Derreck David are the other two jockeys to have been successful on the Hong Kong-owned gelding.
Forever Young (Benny Woodworth) has not saluted since the Group 2 Chairman's Trophy on August 6, picture Singapore Turf Club
Trainer Kuah Cheng Tee has since used Shafiq Rizuan, Ryan Curatolo and Nooresh Juglall, but Forever Young has not found his way back to the winner’s circle since the Chairman’s Trophy in August, even if his last-start third to Solaris Spectrum in a Kranji Stakes A race over 1200m under Juglall on January 26 mirrored his real potential a lot better.
Kuah had every reason to believe the son of Run Away And Hide was peaking at the right time for the traditional Chinese New Year event, but he just wished he did not have to go through so many riding changes.
“It’s not ideal (to change jockeys so often) but he’s a pretty straightforward horse to ride, so it doesn’t really matter,” said Kuah, himself a former jockey.
“Ryan rode him in his last barrier trial (February 8), but then, he decided to ride Infantry, which is his choice and good luck to him.
“I had already asked Juglall to be on standby, but he’s now riding Majestic Moments. It’s okay as he rides mainly for them (trainer Ricardo Le Grange and Avengers Stable), and same as for Ryan, it’s a free country.
“That’s the way it is. I have only a small stable and no stable jockey, but I’m glad I was able to book Craig Grylls.
“He’s a good jockey, has good hands, and we’ve actually had a bit of luck together. He doesn’t ride a lot for me, but he won on Heracles for me last year and this year he won on Key Success.”
Kuah said Forever Young was in a “happy” place at the moment, and that barrier trial when he did not look like he was out to break any record was just to keep him ticking over.
“He actually didn’t really need a trial as he had raced two weeks earlier. It’s more to keep him happy within himself,” he said.
“I just gave him an easy trial and Ryan was happy with the way he moved at the back. He had one last gallop today, and tomorrow Craig will jump on him for a bit of pacework.
“All I can hope now is a low gate, and he should go well on Saturday.”
Grylls was for one looking forward to the new association. Even though he has never ridden Forever Young before, he does not need to watch too many videos to get his homework done.
“I’m very grateful to CT and the owners for putting me on Forever Young. Obviously, he is a classy horse and his last run was very good, wasn’t it?” said the amiable Kiwi rider.
“I will sit on him tomorrow. I spoke with CT and he told me it would be something quiet, just so I can get a good feel of him.”
Grylls has been one of the more consistent jockeys early in the season, flying off the blocks on New Year’s Day with a riding double. More to the point, the son of former Bukit Timah jockey Gary Grylls has been able to sustain the run, tallying up a handy score of eight wins for a fourth spot on the log, four behind current leader Michael Rodd.
“I’m getting good support. It was always going to take some time for trainers and owners to know me,” he said.
“I suppose the start of the season is like starting on a new slate for everybody, and that probably also explains my good start. I don’t know, at least, it does for me.
“I guess the change in the riding ranks has helped a little, too, but you still need to turn up for work, do the hard yards and get on the good horses.
“Things are going great, but I have yet to win a feature race and that would be something to look forward to. Hopefully, the barrier gods smile on us on Saturday, and Forever Young can put his foot on the till.”