“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue and the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true.”

  • lyrics from the “Wizard of Oz” musical,

“(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow”

It’s also the ideology behind the win of Apprentice rider S Nurwaki aboard Moon Face on 2023 New Year’s Day at Selangor Turf Club.

The fairytale story starts with Nurwaki, known as Ammar to family and friends, seeing his father’s ponies racing and winning in the state of Kelantan, East Malaysia. A spark was ignited and he started helping his father prepare the team – at fifteen years of age he started riding them in races, all whilst working as a motorcycle mechanic – his dream was awakening – to win a race in the Malaysia capital city, Kuala Lumpur.

A ‘win’ at Kelantan.
S Nurwaki – early days in Kelantan


At age of twenty, Nurwaki joined the stables of expatriate New Zealander trainer, Simon Dunderdale based at Selangor Turf Club and after initial learning to ride track work he was inducted into the Selangor Turf Club’s Apprentice School for Pre-Apprentice training.

SLTC Apprentice School Pre–Apprentices (“Pink” caps) receive in-field lectures and training from senior SLTC staff and officials.

It wasn’t easy for him at the start, as the regime of classes, lectures, fitness training and the rigors of stable and track work were a long way from the easy going horse racing connection of his village. 

As Nurwaki’s training evolved – so too was the flame of his dream fanned, but he had yet to qualify to ride in races, with the minimum numbers of trial rides needed. To assist him in attaining the minimum – a deal was struck between trainers Simon Dunderdale and Charles Leck whereby they swapped Apprentices for track work – Clyde Leck, the son of  trainer Charles Leck and Nurwaki exchanging work positions.

Nurwaki soon qualified for an Apprentice Jockey’s license and approval to ride in races was granted to commence in the New Year 2023.

Now the task came for Dunderdale to find a nice ride for Nurwaki’s initial outing – the pressure was on. He also learnt that no Apprentice in the SLTC Apprentice School’s short history had won when having his first race ride. Enter Moon Face, a grey horse which had won two races and been placed three times in his five Malaysian races.

The race at Selangor Turf Club on New Year’s Day 2023 saw some strong opposition with the unbeaten Gamestonks, ironically trained and ridden by the powerful Leck father and son combination, Clyde had just been crowned as both 2022 Champion Jockey & Champion Apprentice in Malaysia at only his second season of riding.

Part of the training and education of young riders at Selangor Turf Club focuses on hands and heels riding – maximizing performance but ensuring horse welfare, given that the rules preclude an apprentice using a whip for their first 12 rides. This was not an issue for Moon Face, a free running horse and Nurwaki practiced his hands and heels riding on the School’s mechanical horse to make sure he could ride and lift the grey – get the best out of him in a tight finish.

The race was run at a fast pace with Nurwaki and Moon Face shadowing Clyde on Gamestonks in the lead, from the beginning.

– a battle ensued up the straight, with Champion Apprentice Clyde dexterously using his whip and Nurwaki coaxing and keeping Moon Face in a rhythm – just as he had been taught on the mechanical horses of the Apprentice School.  The finish was the closest of margins – a nose with Nurwaki and Moon Face prevailing.

Debut apprentice S Nurwaki, urges Moon Face to beat Clyde Leck aboard Gamestonks by an nose.

Jubilation ensued in the Winner’s Stalls as Nurwaki’s family, joined by Simon Dunderdale and Moon Face’s supporting owners, Maju Racing congratulated Nurwaki.

‘Objective of the School is to enhance the experience of Apprentices with riding skills, life skills and equine knowledge in order to help them become successful professional jockeys. The School has had the opportunity to enhance its program with a grant from the Malaysian Totalisator Board in 2022,’ said Mr Clement Chew, Deputy Chairman of SLTC and Chairman of the SLTC Apprentice School Board in his speech during the School’s Award Celebration held on 5th January.

In acknowledgement and celebration of Nurwaki’s feat – a special award was presented to him by SEA Games Malaysian Women’s Vault Gold Medalist, Ms Tan Ing Yueh.

S Nurwaki receives a trophy and award form Gymnastic Gold Medalist Ing Yueh

and the dreams that you dare to dream –
Really do come true.

S Nurwaki aboard Moon Face with trainer Simon Dunderdale (left) and owners Maju Racing (right)