RICHARD LIM, trainer, on owner V. Maheyndran's scepticism about Vgor.
Richard Lim got more than he bargained for over a hearty fish head curry lunch a few years back.
Besides a happy stomach, it also led to a first Group runner in his very first season as a trainer, Vgor.
The Holy Roman Emperor four-year-old contests this Sunday's $150,000 Group 2 Stewards' Cup (1,600m) and is part-owned by V. Maheyndran.
The name may ring a bell with Indian food lovers. He is the owner of the famous Samy's Curry Restaurant in Dempsey.
Some racing fans may know him as a racehorse owner as well.
Lucky Trio and, more recently, Gentlemen Agreement are some of the horses who raced in his red-and-green silks across both sides of the Causeway over the years.
For remembering him not just for his curries, Lim was about to see his hot meal turn into a hotter deal.
"One day I brought my staff to have fish head curry at Samy's and we saw Mr Maheyndran there," said the former jockey.
"I used to ride a horse called Tomba for him.
"He was trained by Francis Nathan in Kuala Lumpur and used to miss the jump and then win by four to five lengths.
"We were having a nice chat and the next thing I know, he decided to give me horses.
"He sent Chicago Star and Gentlemen Agreement to me and recently Vgor.
"He owns a half share in Vgor, with the other half belonging to a first-time Singaporean owner."
Vgor (then Igor) won twice and was placed three times in eight starts in Queensland.
He also ran second as a three-year-old to Apache Chase, the recent winner of the Group 1 Kingsford Smith Cup (1,300m) at Eagle Farm.
Lim had Derby dreams. But they soon looked more like a pipedream after a few ordinary runs.
Even the curry master thought his freshman trainer might have shown too much hurry.
"The owner was having doubts. He asked me if I was sure he was a Derby horse when he couldn't even win in Class 4," said Lim.
"When I bought the horse, I thought he'd be a good stayer for Singapore. My plan was to run him in the four-year-old races, including the Singapore Derby (July 17).
"He did give me a good feel from Day 1. I knew he had ability, but I just couldn't bring it out at first."
Lim, who still rides his own horses in trackwork, tapped into his experience as a former top-flight jockey - and a dash of trial and error to turn things around.
"I had some trouble to get him going, mostly because mentally, he wasn't quite there," he said.
"At his last win in Australia, I saw he had blinkers on. So I thought they would help him here.
"But he overraced, even with cover. That left me scratching my head.
"I made a decision to take them off and put a crossover noseband instead. He settled a lot better and was running home very good.
"We also put earmuffs on him. The trick to him is to let him settle behind, put him to sleep, but not run him up there with the speed."
The result was two wins from 10 starts, including his last-gasp win under Benny Woodworth at his last start in a Class 4 race over 1,400m.
Woodworth stays on.
Lim, who won the Group 2 Queen Elizabeth II Cup aboard King And King with Her Majesty in the Kranji stands in 2006, is keeping his feet on the ground, though.
"It'll be tough at set weights against Class 1 horses, but he will definitely run home. Where he will finish, I don't know," he said.
If it happens to be at the better end of the 12-horse field, there is every chance Samy's will be a busy and happy place on Sunday night.
Until comes along a bigger fish to fry in three weeks' time.