A rare winner last week and a promising newcomer this week may be those little signs that the tide is turning for Alwin Tan, but the down-to-earth trainer would rather not get too carried away.
The 2016 Singapore champion trainer has fallen on hard times in recent years, not made any easier by the pandemic.
Granted, he will need more than a maiden winner at his 14th start like Super Incredible or even a two-time barrier trial winner like Griffin to restore the glory of yesteryear, but there was a distinct spring in his step, nonetheless.
“Many horses have gone to Malaysia, others have shifted stables. It’s been tough years, it’s been very hard to cope,” said Tan, who won his first 2022 race with Bizar Wins on Feb 19.
“I’ve got around 20 horses left now, which is an okay size given the bad times. It’s easier to manage a smaller string.
“But it was good to have a second win with Super Incredible on Saturday, our hard work is paying off. The owners (UNI Stable) are new to me and they have been very patient with this horse.
“This week I have a newcomer, Griffin, making his debut. It’s a bit tough for a new horse to go straight into a Novice race but there is no other choice.”
From the excitement in his voice ahead of the $75,000 Novice race over 1,200m on the Polytrack, Tan has clearly pinned higher hopes on Griffin, a former Perth one-time winner over 1,400m (dead-heated) when known as Hoover.
Renamed by his new connections, the Red Chambers Stable, the All American four-year-old has sent clear signals he is not without ability if his two barrier trial wins – not a common sight from the Tan yard these days – are anything to go by.
“I’m just so lucky I’ve got this horse,” said Tan.
“He’s not a bad horse, he knows what to do, I don’t need to do a lot on him. I didn’t know much about him as he was transferred from Leticia Dragon, but I believe the owner purchased him from Perth where he won once.
“He won two trials. I put blinkers on at the second one, and he was much better, much more focused.”
The obvious hurdles are the more seasoned novices like last-start winners Shang Chi and Blazing Kid as well as Dancing Light and War Commander, but barrier No. 10 does not make his task any easier.
“Barrier 10 is a concern. He showed in his past two trials he was more of a leading type,” said Tan.
“But I’ve watched the TV replay of his Perth win, and he finished from off the pace.
“Hopefully TH Koh can jump him well and find a good spot where he can be ridden positive.
“I also think he may be more suited for Polytrack races.”
In the short run, Tan is just hoping for a good encouraging run in such a competitive field, especially as the owners have picked him as the new trainer when Dragon left the Kranji scene this year.
“I’d like to thank the owners for their support. They are local owners, some of the partners raced horses with me before while the others are new to our stable,” said Tan.
“Now that owners can come back to the races, I hope they can soon get the chance to lead in a winner.”