Comeback year already stuff of champions, but Beasley still up for last-ditch title bid
The task looks near impossible, but the question on everybody’s lips remains: Can Danny Beasley miraculously pull six wins back on Hakim Kamaruddin at the last meeting of the 2021 season this Saturday?
Both riders head in with 10 rides apiece from the 11-race programme, but for Beasley, who on 52 winners trails Hakim (57) by five winners, to wrest the title from the long-time leader’s (both apprentice and senior jockeys’ log) vice-like grip, he would need a Hail Mary pass to ride six winners minimum while praying the Malaysian boom apprentice has a blank day.
A tie will see Hakim take the crown alone on a countback for seconds – he is six clear for runner-up spots.
It’s really Hakim’s race to lose. With the odds clearly stacked up against Beasley, the onus is on the Australian jockey to pull six rabbits out of the hat – and take the race up to Hakim.
Already home in the apprentice title race from a long way out, Hakim could still claim the senior title without winning a single race.
Or as is often the case, a third gunslinger like the ravenous Manoel Nunes steals the show to the Beasley-Hakim face-off, which just fizzles out and amounts to nothing.
Racing purists would have of course wished for a two-horse race going down to the wire at the last day of battle, but a flying finish from the clouds is just as mouth-watering a prospect for a final showdown.
Still, is the gap bridgeable or is it a mere flight of fancy? Hearing about the challenger’s bullets from the horse’s mouth could shed some light.
Never one to shy away from giving some insight on his rides, Beasley gladly put on his race analyst hat again.
He narrowed down his best chances to four of five, and if luck is on his side, and they hit the target, he can only hope at least one more puts his best foot forward while keeping fingers crossed Hakim stalls.
Granted, he could come across as slightly biased, but in his usual straight shooter style, the comments were very thorough, candid and unfettered – with a judgement definitely not clouded by any undue pressure from his “mission impossible” ahead.
It’s not like he’s on a hiding to nothing.
An elusive champion jockey accolade would be nice to have at the age of 46, but the comeback jockey who came out of a four-year-hiatus to rejoin the Kranji riding ranks with no set expectations earlier this year, has already enjoyed a renaissance that has gone beyond his wildest dreams.
He is so relaxed he said he didn’t even take a look at Hakim’s rides, abeit he knows one of his better rides well, Special Ops in Race 8.
But behind that cool veneer, one can feel the fieriness of that competitive streak that won’t shirk a good fight till the end, regardless of what he has underneath.
RACE 1 - PERFECT: “Finds Class 4 tougher and the drop back in Class 5 could see him bounce back, but he’s clearly not one of my better chances, and he’s drawn wide.”
RACE 2 - No ride
RACE 3 - LIM’S CRAFT: “I haven’t had a lot to do with him, but his form seems to have dropped away. I told (trainer) Steve (Burridge) he trialled well for me one day. I was meant to ride him, but I was also booked on something else, who, as it turned out didn’t run in the end, but Lim’s Craft was still disappointing. Maybe the Polytrack can turn him around, but it looks unlikely.”
RACE 4 - ZOFFSPEED: “(Trainer) Ricardo’s (Le Grange) horses went really well last week. I think this one will run a good race in this class, and from barrier one.”
RACE 5 – JUST BECAUSE: “Any horse who can win first time out must have a lot of ability. He was very new at his first start. I told (trainer) Shane (Baertschiger) whatever he does, he will improve on that. It’s not easy going to Class 4 straight out of a maiden race, but it’s not a strong Class 4, and I think he’ll be pretty competitive.”
RACE 6 – LIM’S HOPEFULLY: “It’s his first time down in Class 5, and second division is pretty average. He’s drawn awkwardly. He can also be a handful in the morning, that’s why I take a wide berth from him at trackwork. He takes a lot of racing, but in saying this, I think he can finish in the money.”
RACE 7 – LIM’S PRIDE: “First-up run wasn’t too bad. Should improve on that.”
RACE 8 – RED OCEAN: “I have a lot of time for him. He’s a really nice horse and could be a Derby horse next year. He’s probably my best chance of the day and I know Hakim rides Special Ops, a horse I know well, but I think Red Ocean can take care of him.”
RACE 9 – STRONG N SMART: “He’s not very big, but he’s a real character. When I ride him in work, he’s a very average track worker, he doesn’t show much in his trials either. In his races, he doesn’t like to get pushed early, you have to let him find his rhythm, but he’s got a very good turn of foot. He had a little bit of a break after his 3YO races, and was underdone first-up. There wasn’t any suitable race for him second-up but he still ran a nice third on Polytrack, and he was just sensational at his last win. I expect him to go really well again.”
RACE 10 – LIM’S DREAM: “It wasn’t the plan to run him first-up in the ($110,000 Group 3) Merlion Trophy (1200m). We had him nearly ready three or four times – as recently as two weeks ago in the race Kharisma won - only for something to go wrong two weeks out. He’s been a real headache. It’s exciting to get him back as he’s my favourite horse at the stable. It’ll be my first time riding him in a race, but I’ve ridden him a hell of a lot for 12 to 18 months, pretty much since he came to Dan as a two-year-old. We almost gave up on him, as he’s had many problems, both breathing and legs, but I’m so glad we got him back. He’s a real tank, and can be very tough on himself. So he takes a lot of management. I don’t expect him to win after such a long break, but should he win, that would really sum up the year we’ve had, not just myself, but also Dan, Mr Lim (Siah Mong) and (racing manager) Mick (Dittman) – a dream year!”
RACE 11 – FIRST BOWL: “He’s racing really well. There’s not much difference between a top Class 4 and a bottom Class 3, so he could be a good each-way chance in this.”
To recap, Beasley designates the two Baertschigers as his best ammunition, but should the stars align, like they did around 20 years ago in a small town 300km north of Sydney, well, you never know.
“All in all, I think I have a couple of nice rides, and I’d probably make Red Ocean my best chance, followed by the other Shane horse, Just Because,” he said.
“Strong N Smart, Lim’s Hopefully and First Bowl are definite chances, and a horse like Zoffspeed could get up if things fall into place.
“But we all know races are not run on paper, and even if they did, I still have to hope Hakim doesn’t win one race!
“And also, I’ve never won five races here, let alone six. I’ve had a few fours, even here, the only five-timer was in Taree, a country track in New South Wales back in the late 90s or early 2000s. So, it’s really a big ask.”
As a fair dinkum Aussie, Beasley will give it a good crack, but said that even if he comes up short, his sensational first year back from the sidelines has been as close as it gets to landing the most coveted reward for any jockey.
“I’m already so rapt I have come so close at my first season back. It’s gone beyond what I could have dreamed of,” said Beasley who, bar 2015 (licence not renewed), has been a regular fixture at Kranji since arriving in Singapore in 2007 until his premature retirement in 2017.
“Like I said, I didn’t really set any goals when I returned, I just wanted to come back and be competitive. I came back to fill the holes and have a go, I wanted to do a job for the Singapore Turf Club and Dan (Meagher) when COVID-19 struck last year.
“I remember in those days we were struggling to find a jockey after so many bailed out. It was tough for the Club and everyone, so there was definitely a position to be filled as a jockey.
“I felt I had not done enough to help the Club or Dan, and that was my chance to do something about it. So I spoke to the Stewards and the Club officials, put my forms in.
“It’s been a long time, four years without riding, so it was a bit of an ask. I would have been more than happy with a few winners, but I’ve ridden more than a few.
“As the year went on, it’s turned into this amazing year, and Lim’s Lightning, of course, has been the icing on the cake.
“It’s been very enjoyable. I’ve cherished every moment and even if I can’t catch Hakim, it’s all credit to him, he’s a very promising jockey.
“I don’t know him well, but I know he’s very hard-working. It’s true he gets the support of Mark Walker’s powerful stable, and if you look back on my year, I can count on my hand how many rides I got from Mark or Michael Clements.
“But giving credit where it’s due, to win both the apprentice and senior title, it’s no mean feat when you consider he has to compete against so many other talented young riders like Simon Kok (Wei Hoong), Harry (A’Isisuhairi Kasim) and CC (Chin Chuen) Wong.
“But he made the most of the opportunities, week in week out, and he fully deserves that double champion title.
“Actually, one of my biggest satisfactions now that I’m back as a more “senior” rider, is to see the kids riding. When I came back, they were the younger generation I had never ridden against before.
“It was a new challenge to ride against them, and I hope I had a positive influence on them in some way or another, or become an inspiration for them to do well.
“I watched CC ride the other day and I saw him using the whip in a vigorous Australian style, which goes to show he’s always willing to learn!
“Hopefully, I get to see more of that next year. Thank you to the Club for giving me another year, we’ll have a go, even if we’ll take it one year at a time.”
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