Notes from the Singapore leg of the Global Challenge: Kranji

Kieren Fallon rode at the Global Challenge in Kranji, Singapore

Kieren Fallon rode at the Global Challenge in Kranji, Singapore

by Sean T

Well I have finished the prep work, written the pre-racing articles, and enjoyed my time in the warmth of Singapore but now we get down to the real nitty-gritty of arriving at the races to see if I was anywhere near to right – which would be a first as many will tell you!

With no bookmakers here (shall we go down the Tote v Bookmaker argument yet again?), I am “forced” to bet with their Tote, but at the risk of argument, I really don’t mind as the profits put their racing on such a sound financial footing, which means they can afford to invite me back next year (hopefully).

First things first and yes, I am on a junket, but I did some research and found that your average race goer paid about £5 to get in, and with snacks at £2-4 and drinks only £4, once again our racecourses should hang their heads in shame (and by the way, everything else over here is pretty expensive so don’t try to blame the cost of living).

Naturally, I avoided even those costs as the freeloading social parasite that I am (they provide for us in the Media Room because we don’t have time to go to and fro), and sat eagerly reading the form book ahead of race one of ten – as they say, it’s a marathon not a sprint!

The first thing I noticed as that they publish the actual physical weight of each horse when they last ran and placed (basically), and then announce the weight of each horse on the day (thanks to Craig Brennan of the Singapore Turf Club for advising me where to find the info), something I strongly feel could be given out in the UK as well. Not every punter can get to the paddock (or even the track) to assess the fitness before placing a bet and I do feel this is a decent clue though I have zero evidence to back that assumption up, especially after losing my first $10 with a fast finishing never nearer third!

Common sense kicked in for a while (as well as conversations with various other racing aficionados), so I left the next few races alone (which was sensible of me as I watched the heavily odds on favourite get touched off in the third race), but I had to step in again for race four where I stuck to my “less weight” theory which frankly didn’t work (sixth or so, I don’t really care), so back to the old drawing board and a conscious wait for the two big races – and nothing else!

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While waiting I did go back through the earlier results, and as you may remember from earlier in the week, we all knew a low draw was imperative to success, especially on this rain softened ground, which was obvious after the horse drawn 1 took the first contest. Labouring on, I noticed something pretty strange – the next four winners were drawn 14, 14, 14, and 13 – but was I on to something? Race six could be the proof of the pudding or so I thought – until someone pointed out that the big races are run on a slightly different track (curses!), but the concept may still hold and I am even less certain which I will be backing now…

With the clock ticking down and the atmosphere building, Mother Nature had her say with a bit of a storm that left us all both worrying and (literally) sweating on how the horses would react (especially those from abroad who may not have seen conditions like this before), but we had a show to watch first which was simply amazing: dragon dancers, beautiful girls – what more can you ask for?

Race time was finally upon us shortly afterwards and I did put my money where my mouth is on Krypton Factor – and lived to regret it. Odds on certainties are reducing the kids’ inheritance far too rapidly as he missed the kick when the stalls opened and never really got involved until the race as all but over.

Ato won for Singapore to the delight of the crowd, a whoop from the jockey and an even bigger whoop in the press room from someone who shall remain nameless but who had $100 (£60 or so) on at 50/1 – nice work if you can get it.

One race to go until my work is over for the week (well, here anyway), and I am half celebrating about getting home soon to my wife and family, and half disappointed that all the work is gone and past history, like a Michelin starred restaurant that was eaten and is now no more or a melted ice sculpture.

The local betting here is so tight that the favourite keeps changing on the Tote screens between Zazou, Thumbs Up, and City Style, with California Memory (my tentative selection) next on the list, but as witnessed in the last race, all things are possible.  Luckily for me I can see the Turf Belles from here (see photo!), which stops me sulking about the losers, though to be fair, and beautiful as they are, they do look like they need a decent meal!

Last year I tipped Gitano Hernando and had a massive $10 or so on him much to my disgust (should have been more).  This year I stuck with California Memory but also had a little saver on Waikato, the local challenger they had been talking about all week, but who drifted out to about 13/1 at the off (3/1 the place).

As we all rushed outside in to the hot humid air I had mentally waved goodbye to both Singapore and my cash and you guessed it, that was the only prediction I got right on the night! Waikato was up in the van from the off but faded so badly that he finished stone cold last, while California Memory was given a perfect ride getting a run up the inside, but failed to quicken through as expected and missed out on the first four finishing seventh. All in all, an amazing night out, a spectacular track, quality racing, but a financial disaster – I just hope they invite me back next season to help me empty my wallet again. Ahem.

To end with, and as someone who fancies arranging racing trips abroad, I ought to add a few comments about Singapore as a whole, with the racing as an obvious backdrop.

Those who like a drink on a budget should sadly scrub Kranji races off their bucket list as alcohol is prohibitively expensive at something like £8 a bottle of lager and £15 for a cheap and nasty bottle of wine, but it does have other redeeming features which more than outweigh that little issue (and trust me, I like a drink).

Food is expensive in hotels, but then where isn’t it, but the best thing about Singapore is the safety – it is well lit, well policed, and safe to walk the main streets at night (unlike parts of the UK I am sorry to say), so you can go out and about to eat where the locals do, which is much, much cheaper.

Chinese food rather obviously holds centre stage but Singapore is incredibly cosmopolitan and I have walked past Indian restaurants, pizza houses, McDonalds, KFC, steak houses, Italians, Wendys – you name it, there is a restaurant serving it, though I tried to stick to the local food when I could as an experiment, which was mainly dim sum bought steaming hot in the local seven eleven.

For those looking to go out and about, there are more shopping malls per square mile than anywhere I have ever been, with electrics the must have item, apparently much cheaper here than at home in the UK.

Sentosa is an amazing holiday island worth a visit with Universal Studios, an aquarium, beach, restaurants, and golf course, while their millennium wheel is five metres taller than ours and I can recommend the satay stall underneath.

Public transport is cheap and plentiful, while the obligatory open top bus was good fun for less than £14 (hop on hop off 24 hours), and one I used thanks to my limited time.

More importantly than all of the above, the racecourse is an absolute delight – picturesque, colourful, spacious, and (most importantly), air conditioned, while the racing really is of the highest quality, which is hardly unexpected with such massive prize money. All in all, I cannot recommend both racing and country highly enough, and while I am quietly confident I will be back this time next year, I urge you to at least consider doing the same – if not in 2013, then some time in your racing life.

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