Trainer Alwin Tan may be going through a bad patch but if there was to be a silver lining, at least one horse is giving him something to look forward to – Revolution.
The smart Unencumbered colt was the former Singapore champion trainer’s only winner for the month of July.
Tan actually did enjoy a healthy first 2019 quarter with a haul of 13 winners to sit in fifth place, a spot his yard has been accustomed to over the last five or six years, but the frequency of walks down to the Champagne Room has halved since.
He has dropped to eighth place on 20 winners while last time this year, he was doing a touch better on 26 winners. He went on to pad up his score to 36 winners, including two Group 3 races by the year-end, the Moonbeam Vase (1600m) with Nova Strike and the Colonial Chief Stakes (1600m) with Maximus
Despite the downward turn this time in, Tan has got a bit of a spring back in his step ahead of his pet race, the Group 2 Merlion Trophy (1200m) on August 25.
Tan has earmarked progressive three-year-old Revolution (who turns four on Thursday) as his new contender for a fifth Merlion hurrah. Speedy Cat gave the former Air Force regular his first ‘black type’ win in the 2013 renewal when it was still a Group 3 race before El Padrino won the next two to make it a hat-trick of wins.
In 2016, El Padrino was bettered by Spalato in his three-in-a-row bid when the then first Leg of the Singapore Sprint Series (discontinued this year) was elevated to Group 2 status, before Tan regained the crown in 2017 with that year’s Singapore Horse of the Year, Infantry.
He saddled a trio of runners last year, with Maximus the leading gladiator, but they did not flatter, all three (Nova Missile and Nova Swiss were the other two) well beaten by Distinctive Darci.
Mark Walker’s Polytrack specialist will be one among Revolution’s small group of six adversaries in this Sunday’s $100,000 Class 1 race over 1100m, a race that will also be a huge leap of class for the five-time winner, but which was necessary should Tan press on towards the Merlion Trophy for him.
“Polytrack suits him. It will be a big step-up in class but at the same time, it’s also a small field and he’s got no weight on his back (50kgs),” said Tan.
“Even though there won’t be many runners, I think there will be some pace to the race. I will
tell CC (Wong Chin Chuen) to sit off the pace where he is comfortable and then sprint home.
“That’s his usual pattern as he’s got a strong finish. If he runs well, then we will set him for the Merlion Trophy.
“That race is special to me. It’s been locked away as his target for a while.”
Tan said Revolution had kept up the same condition since his last-start win in a Class 3 Polytrack speed dash over 1200m on July 19. He lumped the steadier of 59.5kgs then and steamed home under champion jockey Vlad Duric (his winning partner at his last two wins, both earned this year) to beat Elite Conquest.
“He galloped with CC yesterday. I was happy with that work, he’s pulled up well,” said Tan.
“He’s maintained his condition and fingers crossed, he can come through with the light weight. The Merlion Trophy is a weight-for-age race and will be tougher, so he must run well this Sunday.”
“Tough” is a word that Tan had been uttering a fair bit in recent months. Things went underway reasonably well in the early months, but the rot has set in of late.
“We’ve lost about 10 horses. A lot of owners are sending their horses up to Malaysia,” said Tan about his weakened firepower.
“It’s very tough for us. We’ve been struggling.
“But there are some reasons to have hope. Most of my owners have stuck with me and supported me.
“They made an effort and brought in new young horses. Some have already shown encouraging potential like the two-year-old All We Know (second to Yulong Express) last Sunday, and I’d like to say a big thank you to all of them.
“I think most of these young horses will need some time to get ready, that’s why we are having a quiet time now. Hopefully, they will hit form by the end of the year and turn our stables around.”