On a day when gloomy skies and battering rain engulfed Kranji in an eerie landscape that somehow harked back to the days of night racing, a horse by the name of Cheval Blanc emerged like a shining light through the darkness on Saturday.
Cheval Blanc, which means white horse in French, is raced by Team Cheval Stable’s Eric Koh, owner of the Cheval Cafe Bar Bistro located near the racecourse, among his other businesses.
Aptly, the ghostly grey Irish-bred seven-year-old by Red Jazz was ridden by his French jockey, Marc Lerner.
But neither Lerner nor trainer Stephen Gray could know for sure before the race whether the former Yulong Stable-owned galloper (when known as Yulong Jazz) had webbed feet for hooves.
The sudden deterioration of the weather before the $50,000 Class 4 race over the Polytrack mile turned the all-weather track into a wading pool.
But all 11 horses seemed to be having a splashing good time.
The lamplighter, Captain Singapore (Saifudin Ismail), led the field into the last stretch.
But the better “swimmers” were setting sail for home from behind.
Last-start winner Tigarous (Wong Chin Chuen) and Chivalric Knight (Manoel Nunes) loomed as the first challengers.
Axel (Jerlyn Seow) joined the fray after racing in the rear.
But Cheval Blanc, who at the 600m mark did not seem to be acting in the “skating” ground, suddenly found another gear under Lerner’s urgings.
The $39 shot darted past last-start winner Axel, who had stormed home on the outside, by half a length.
Gray put down the gutsy win to Cheval Blanc not being averse to the wet conditions, which he described as “terrible”.
“He’s a good staying horse. He’s a natural stayer,” said the New Zealander.
“It was terrible conditions out there. But, once he got into the clear, he kept coming. I think he likes the rain.
“The staff has done a good job with his feet. He’s never going to be as good as he could have been.
“But we’ve kept him sound and he always tries. He puts in a good race once in a while.”
Koh and his wife, Khoo Lay Chin, were on hand with their entourage to lead in their mud-splattered winner. Luckily, it was at the sheltered area for the traditional photo memento.
“To be honest, I thought he couldn’t win halfway through, but he stuck on and won. I’m very happy,” said the former Singapore Turf Club stipendiary steward, who also runs spelling and quarantine centre Equine Sanctuary.
Lerner paid tribute to Cheval Blanc’s big heart despite his well-documented issues.
“He tries hard. When he is good on the day, he can always win a race like this,” said Lerner, who was aboard at Cheval Blanc’s maiden win last Nov 20.
“Stephen was concerned with the drop back to 1,600m. But he got a good run off the pace, and he got there in the end.
“He broke his maiden not such a long time ago. He can stay all day.
“I’m happy he won as he’s got many issues.”
Although already seven years old, Cheval Blanc is lightly raced with only 15 Kranji starts for two wins, four seconds and two thirds.
His soundness issues delayed his Kranji debut by two years, until 2020. With his second success, his prize money has crossed the $100,000 mark.