Top jockeys Face Off in Equine Sanctuary Tunku Gold Cup
Kuala Lumpur, May 26
The battle will be intense when the 2023 edition of the Equine Sanctuary Tunku Gold Cup takes off at Sungei Besi this Sunday.
The top sprinters in the country will aim to take the crown away from AWESOME STORM (Phenomenons – Forewarning by Magic Albert) who outclassed his rivals to win the 1200m sprint by an astonishing eight and a half lengths last year.
But the focus will also be on the men astride the gallopers on Sunday. Top jockeys in the country will be joined by some big names across the causeway and beyond to vie for honours.
AWESOME STORM will be partnered by Bernardo Pinheiro, a Brazilian jockey who took Malaysian racing by storm last year when he won 12 races in a short period of time, recording a strike rate of 41.4%.
Pinheiro went on to ride winners in Singapore before his 2022 season was cut short by a suspension.
After fulfilling his commitments in the Middle East, Pinheiro is back in Singapore for another stint, and making the occasional dash to ride in Kuala Lumpur. He has ridden seven winners in Singapore since last month and another three at Sungei Besi.
Also making their way across the causeway on Sunday are Wong Chin Chuen, Benny Woodworth, Simon Kok and Craig Grylls.
Wong has done extremely well at Kranji since moving from Malaysia to Singapore when he was still an apprentice to continue his career.
He has already won several Group 1 races at Kranji, the most recent being the Kranji Mile astride LIM’S KOSCIUSZKO last Saturday.
Wong, currently second in the table with 26 winners, will take the ride on KONG FU PANDA (Showcasing – Hermitage by Generous), winner of seven races including five last year. The four-year-old, however, is trying to regain that sort of form this season.
Kok is another former Malaysian apprentice who has been more than holding his own in Singapore and is currently fourth in the table with 16 winners.
The two-time champion apprentice in Singapore won the 2020 Singapore Gold Cup on BIG HEARTED and he will ride CHEVAL RAPIDE (Exceed And Excel – Much Faster by Fasliyev) who has won 10 races in Singapore and Malaysia.
Woodworth is a former MRA champion apprentice and jockey who has ridden in various parts of the world. The veteran rider can still hold his own against the best and has 10 wins so far this season at Kranji.
Woodworth will ride STREETS OF FIRE (Ecohes Of Heaven – Apowwow by Kaapstad), winner of her last two starts who is tipped to be the one to beat in the Cup. She has won eight races since crossing the causeway from Singapore.
Grylls, who has been granted a one-day licence to ride FEBRUARY in the Singapore Guineas tomorrow, will fly in on Sunday to ride last-start winner SINCERELY, a two-time winner in Singapore who won his last start here.
Grylls, son of former MRA jockey Gary, won 44 races in Singapore in 2017 and 2018. The New Zealander has captured 13 races at Group 1 level including the New Zealand Derby twice.
The local contingent trying to hold off the visitors will be spearheaded by Nuqman Faris Rozi who leads the table with 31 winners. He will partner VIOLET (Mint Lane – Wings Of Alice by Testa Rossa), a winner of 13 races who ran third in this race last year.
Two Brazilians currently riding in the country will be hoping to emulate the success of compatriot Jose De Souza who won on AWESOME STORM last year, after which he left to ride in Mauritius.
Edson Ferreira has been nominated on SAN ANDREAS (Smart Missile – Shamardal Gold by Shamardal) while Vitor Espindola will ride GOLDEN KING (Savabeel – Snowdrop by Pins), who has won thrice in nine starts since coming over from New Zealand where he also recorded a win.
The bang-in-form Saddam Hussein Saari will ride the topweight GRAND CROSS (Fastnet Rock – Defiant Dame by More Than Ready). Two weeks ago, the jockey hit the headlines with five winners in Ipoh but it will be the first time he will be partnering the 10-year-old who has already won 19 races in the MRA circuit.
Harmeet Singh Gill, who has been the regular rider of GRAND CROSS since 2021, will instead ride BIG DOCTOR (Better Than Ready – Royalsyn by Royal Academy), who is unbeaten in three starts in Malaysia after winning five races in Brisbane.
Interestingly, Nuqman won on BIG DOCTOR in the gelding’s last two outings. He also scored on STREETS OF FIRE in the mare’s last two wins.
But will he have the last laugh on VIOLET, a horse he has scored three times before?
In a race such as the Tunku Gold Cup, in which a capacity field of 16 horses will take part, luck plays an important part as much as the form of the runners, and the horsemanship of the men on board them.
This year’s Equine Sanctuary Tunku Gold Cup is not to be missed.
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