Gold Cup runners-up are second to none

The 2,200m Gold Cup is sapping. It takes its toll on trainer, jockey and horse. But any stayer worth his salt will eat up the distance and still come back - hardly blowing and wanting more.

For the trainers of these thoroughbreds, and we've got some of the best here at Kranji, they'll tell you saddling a Gold Cup winner is a triumph of patience. But losing a race like the Gold Cup can be devastating for a trainer.

Then we have the jockeys, pound for pound the toughest athletes in sport.

In a race like this where there is weaving and bobbing, slashing and urging, panic and derring-do, a jockey must - in a little over two minutes - be a master of multi-tasking. He must have a telepathic understanding with a 500kg animal and make it do brave and improbable things.

We accept that racing is an unforgiving sport. It spits out losers like a chaff-cutter. So perhaps it's time to spare a thought for those who have been placed second. So, who goes into this honourable list?

I'll take you back 10 years. Then, there was a horse called Itmaybeyou. Trained by Brian Dean, he wasn't a star but, when ridden by Ronnie Stewart in the 2007 Gold Cup, he was as gritty as the great ones - weaving his way through the field, only to lose out to Recast.

The following year, Saimee Jumaat, then a champion jockey, came agonisingly close on the Charles Leck-trained Chevron. The judges called for a print and pored over it before giving the race to El Dorado. The great horse would win again the next year, shattering the dreams of jockey Vlad Duric, trainer Stephen Gray and the gritty Given Vision.

In 2010, the cheers rang out for Risky Business and we quickly forgot how a $222 outsider named Tell A Tale nearly won bragging rights to the big one. Alas, that day the urchin failed to beat the aristocrat.

The next year, Lizarre was running on empty in the stretch but sheer instinct and his indomitable spirit took him to the withers of El Dorado. Try as he could, he couldn't get the job done.

Barend Vorster, who rode Lizarre, would again taste defeat in 2012 and 2013 on Maurice Utrillo and Orakei Korako. What could have been a hat-trick of wins turned out to be gut-wrenching disappointment instead.

In 2014, Patrick Shaw had three runners in the race and, while Corey Brown would celebrate on the winner Quechua, Nooresh Juglall was beaten on the fearless Emperor's Banquet.

Who can forget Fastnet Dragon? His was the hard-luck story of the 2015 edition. Trained by Leslie Khoo and ridden by Alan Munro, the $22 equal-favourite in his pink blinkers hit the front 250m out, only to be swamped by Cooptado. He would lose out by a nostril.

Then last year, Time Odyssey - as resolute and audacious as they come - couldn't reel back the front-running Bahana. His day in the sun was clouded in misery.

Today, another name will be added to that list of Gold Cup winners. What a thrill it will be for owner, trainer, jockey and syce as they pose for pictures with the horse in front of the grandstand.

Join in and raise a cheer. That done, look to your right as the beaten brigade are led back - unceremoniously - to their stables.

Rise from your seat and give them all a round of applause, especially the one who finished second. Because, like the winner of the 2017 Dester Singapore Gold Cup, he, too, would have run the race of his life.


Singtel TV Ch109, 4.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 12, 2017, with the headline 'Gold Cup runners-up are second to none'. Subscribe