Horse racing: Alwin Tan crowned 2016 champion trainer at Singapore Turf Club

Local trainer Alwin Tan, who was runner-up in 2014 and last year, is finally the champion trainer at the Singapore Turf Club. His intention is to compete in big races in Dubai and Hong Kong.
Local trainer Alwin Tan, who was runner-up in 2014 and last year, is finally the champion trainer at the Singapore Turf Club. His intention is to compete in big races in Dubai and Hong Kong.PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Trainer Alwin Tan has an unassailable lead in race to become top trainer for the first time

Hanging on the walls of horse trainer Alwin Tan's stables are the winning banners from some of his more memorable victories in 2016.

With two race meetings left in this campaign - tonight and Sunday - there will be ample opportunities to add to his 89 season-leading winners, though the celebrations have already begun for the Singaporean handler.

The 47-year-old, who earned his training licence in December 2009, is assured of winning the trainers' premiership thanks to his insurmountable lead. Second-placed Patrick Shaw is on 73 winners and the South African has runners in only nine races this week.

This means that Tan, who finished runner-up in 2014 and again last year, will finally be crowned champion trainer at the Singapore Turf Club (STC). It is the first time a local has won the title since Charles Leck in 2003.

Tan told The Straits Times yesterday: "Coming so close the last two years gave me even more motivation to try harder this year. It's a fantastic achievement as you need to be consistent for the entire year which isn't easy. I couldn't have done it without support from my family, the horse owners and STC."

The former Republic of Singapore Air Force aircraft technician has come a long way. He spent five years (2002-2006) in the United States learning how to get horses race-ready and worked under various Kentucky-based trainers before returning to Singapore to continue his apprenticeship.

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

Not only do I have quantity, I also have quality horses. The owners are willing to spend money to buy good horses and that's made a big difference.

ALWIN TAN, on striking the right balance.

He started with just nine horses after getting his licence in 2009 and his primary concern then was how to fill the 35 stalls he had. Befitting his ascent, Tan now has 70 horses under his care and moved into a bigger stable at the start of this year.

He has saddled 759 runners this term, a total surpassed only by the 842 runners deployed by defending champion trainer Mark Walker, who traditionally has one of the biggest stables in Kranji.

Tan noted: "Not only do I have quantity, I also have quality horses. The owners are willing to spend money to buy good horses and that's made a big difference."

The plaudits have been coming in from all quarters. Yesterday's interview was briefly interrupted when a delivery man arrived at Tan's office at Block 103B at STC with a congratulatory hamper.

Fellow trainer and compatriot Desmond Koh, who won the prestigious Singapore Derby in 2012, hailed Tan's accomplishment.

Koh said: "Hopefully it will show the owners that a local trainer is just as good as an expat one and lead to better support for all of us in the future. It's not surprising to see Alwin succeed. He works very hard and has been knocking on the door for the past few years."

Displaying the hunger that has seen him rise to the top, Tan already has his eye on 2017.

He said: "The goal is to defend my title and also win more Group races (he won only two, both Group 3, which is the lowest tier of feature events, this season).

"I also want to try and compete in the big overseas races in Dubai and Hong Kong. That's where you measure yourself against the very best."

After a couple of near misses, Tan has proved himself the top dog in Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2016, with the headline 'Premiership a fitting reward for hard yards'. Print Edition | Subscribe