In a wonderful gesture which often comes forward among jockeys when a fallen comrade is sidelined, Barend Vorster did not fail to dedicate his latest win to injured jockey Alysha Collett on Sunday.
Shortly after guiding Nadeem Sapphire to his maiden success in the S$85,000 Laughing Gravy 2016 Stakes, a Restricted Maiden race over 1400m, the South African jockey acknowledged he might not have stood at the winner’s circle if not for Collett’s mishap.
Collett, who hurt her back and foot in a race fall last Sunday, and had surgery to her back on Thursday, was a frontrunner to take the ride on the Nadeem three-year-old on Sunday.
“This one’s for Alysha. I hope she recovers quickly,” said Vorster.
Winning trainer Leslie Khoo said the Kiwi lass would have most likely been the booking after she last rode Nadeem Sapphire to a promising third in a similar Restricted Maiden race over 1200m on August 10.
“There was a high chance Alysha would have ridden that horse today – as long as she can make the weight (52kgs),” said the Singaporean conditioner.
“She rode a nice race on him at his last start. Unfortunately, she injured herself, and I had to look for another jockey.
“There aren’t many senior jockeys who can make that weight, but luckily, we got Barend to take the ride.”
Sent out as joint $18 favourite with Lincoln Moonlight (Matthew Kellady), Nadeem Sapphire was handled patiently at the rear by Vorster while the other joint-favourite was eye-balled by Giant Killing (Wong Chin Chuen) at the head of affairs.
Vorster must have chuckled to himself as they maintained the brisk tempo upfront. When he peeled Nadeem Sapphire for his charge to the post at the top of the straight, Lincoln Moonlight duly blew out, softened up no doubt by the early speed battle.
Giant Killing tried to make a race of it at the 300m, but he could not quite muster another kick while longshot Fight To Victory (Nooresh Juglall) – prior record read as 4-0-0-0 - was shaping up as a most unlikely party-pooper.
Nadeem Sapphire, however, did not let his backers down. He hit the front with great aplomb, kept up a strong gallop, not without repelling a late charge from Majestic (Benny Woodworth) to salute by a half-a-length on the line. Fight To Victory hung on for third place another head away.
The winning time was 1min 22.61secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.While Vorster was gracious in his post-race salute to Collett, he certainly deserved praise himself for the way he bided his time, only testing Nadeem Sapphire when he was well-balanced and ready to unwind.
“Leslie has done a good job to get this horse right. He needed more time and more ground,” he said.
“For the 1400m today, they’ve sharpened him up in his work. There was a nice pace on and he settled beautifully for me.
“Once he got on the outside of Nooresh’s horse, he picked up nicely. He’s still immature and looked around after the line, but I’m sure he’ll keep improving.”
With that first win out of the way, Khoo said he would now chart a racing programme geared towards longer assignments.
“He had a couple of trials since a short let-up, and trialled well,” said the Singaporean handler.
“He was a little bit on the fat side, but he’s done a good job today. I think he’s more of a middle-distance horse, and 1600m should not be a problem.”
Though Nadeem Sapphire was scoring his maiden win, his two previous third placings have yielded some returns, which have now snowballed to around S$65,000 for the Fusion Stable. -STC