Moon Se Young made Thunder Cat, his only ride of the night, count to record his first win in Singapore becoming the first jockey from the Land of the Morning Calm to win a race in Singapore. Korean jockeys previously rode at Kranji at the Korean-Singapore exchange races in the last two years, but without winning.
Licensed for three months by the Singapore Turf Club, the eight-time South Korean champion jockey made his Kranji debut on May 19, and after 13 rides, he had placed twice with trainer support slow to pick up for him.
To be fair, the Seoul rider was not getting onto prime chances, but he still managed to finish in the money on two longshots both for trainer Mohd Yusof, at his second meeting on May 21.
Moon had a silent hope about Alwin Tan’s Thunder Cat, in the last race of the programme, the $60,000 Class 4 Division 1 (1000m). He had trialled the previous four-time winner twice, jumping off with positive vibes about the horse.
In the final 50m of the race Thunder Cat sprouted wings to go away to win by three parts of a length.
“I am very happy I won my first race in Singapore,” said Moon who speaks good English.
“I have had some support since I came here, and I hope this win will bring me even more support from other trainers from now on.
“I would first like to thank the Singapore Turf Club for giving me the chance to ride here. I would also like to thank trainer Alwin Tan for the ride. He often helps me with rides in trackwork.”
The 2016 Singapore champion trainer was indeed very pleased for Moon, more so when he had become the first trainer to give him his first Kranji win.
“It’s a good start for Moon. Every morning, he comes knocking my door for trackwork rides,” he said.
Moon is not just any jockey from South Korea. He is their eight-time champion jockey (2008, 2010 to 2016) and as famous as a Joao Moreira in Hong Kong for instance, or Yutaka Take in Japan or Ryan Moore in England. His wins include the Group 1 Grand Prix Stakes in 2007 (Bally Brae) and Group 1 Korean Derby in 2012 (Jigeum I Sungan).
“I came to Singapore because I wanted a new challenge. I have been riding in Korea for a long time and have achieved a lot there, and it was time to try something new,” said Moon.
“For a start, I got three months and I am very grateful to the Singapore Turf Club for the opportunity. If things work out, I would of course like to extend my stay here.
“I have ridden in Macau where I rode seven winners in 60 rides. I also rode in Malaysia and Japan at invitational races, but I want more international experience and Singapore is the next stop I wanted to ride in,” he said.
In Hong Kong Callan Murray, 20, has a short term riding contract through to the season’s final fixture on July 16th.
“It is an honour to be here. To be invited to ride in one of the biggest racing jurisdictions in the world is very exciting,” Murray said when he started in May.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to come here and compete with some of the world’s best jockeys.”
“It is a huge step coming to such an important place,” South Africa’s 2015/16 champion apprentice continued.
The rising star last year had a successful six-week spell riding for former Hong Kong trainer David Hayes in Australia. He has since made a big splash at the elite level.
Murray’s breakthrough Group 1 win came on 1 April in the SA Classic, atop the Mike de Kock-trained Heavenly Blue, and he took his top-flight tally to four when sealing a Group 1 hat-trick in a single afternoon on 6 May: a double for de Kock thanks to Mustaaqeem (SA Nursery) and Rafeef (Computaform Sprint), and a trio-wrapping score on the Geoff Woodruff-trained Deo Juvente (Premier’s Champions Challenge).
He then gained a dream result at just his third meeting in Hong Kong, scoring his first Sha Tin win in style with a shock victory on 88/1 rank outsider Lucky Year in the Group 3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m) on May 28th.
“Unbelievable!” Murray exclaimed after Danny Shum-trained Lucky Year poked through to hold off a wall of challengers.
“I cannot believe it, how exciting is this? It is crazy. I did not expect it so soon, but I am thrilled – what a way to break through at Sha Tin. I have been very fortunate.
“You always hope that you can make an impression quickly, you have got it in the back of your head you want to do well, but I did not think it could be like this. Hopefully it gives me a bit of momentum going forward.”
In the race Murray pushed Lucky Year into a handy position, eventually settling second outside the leader Fabulous One, who set a relatively slow tempo in front. While the winner looked under siege at the 200m, he fought on gamely, racing clear for a three-quarter length success.
Shum was full of praise for Murray and predicted a fruitful Hong Kong career for the 20-year-old Johannesburg native.
“I rang a few jockeys asking them to ride this horse, but none of them wanted to ride him,” Shum said.
“Then I came across Callan. He worked hard to get his weight down and he really wanted the chance. I thought he would be a good fit.
“He is a very polite kid, he has got talent and I would be happy to use him on more of my horses. I could see him being here for a long time to come.”
Earlier Murray had made his first Happy Valley ride a winning one after landing section one of the Class 4 Kam Tin River Handicap (1200m) atop Master Viking for countryman Tony Millard.
“He has ridden a winner for me in South Africa, so I know the boy,” Millard said of Murray. “He’s young, he is hungry and you have got to give them a chance.
“It looks like he has got the ability but it is early days yet; Hong Kong is Hong Kong, it is tough here and he is very young, but as long as he carries on like this, I think he can handle it.”
The list of South African jockeys that have made a splash in Hong Kong is an esteemed one, featuring Hong Kong’s 13-time champion Douglas Whyte, as well as Felix Coetzee, the man forever associated with the great Silent Witness and now a key cog in the HKJC apprentice programme; the Marcus brothers, too, seven-time champion Basil and Anton.
Murray has already notched 234 career wins.
Andrew Harding, HKJC’s Executive Director, Racing Authority, said: “Over the last five or six years, the Club has been successful in identifying a number of young and exciting talents that we considered suitable for Hong Kong, including most recently Chad Schofield and Sam Clipperton, and I would certainly put Callan Murray into that class. He truly is an exciting talent.
“Callan has already, at a young age, exhibited that drive to learn, that drive to get experience and improve as a rider. We are very pleased to have him riding here until the end of the season.”