Winning combination

Trainer Tan and apprentice jockey Wong thrill legion of followers with $12 win payout

Fire Away scoring emphatically under apprentice C.C. Wong’s forceful riding in yesterday’s $50,000 Class 4 Div 1 event over 1,100m.
Fire Away scoring emphatically under apprentice C.C. Wong’s forceful riding in yesterday’s $50,000 Class 4 Div 1 event over 1,100m.ST PHOTO: SALWA SUANDI

He was strongly supported in all four starts under champion trainer Lee Freedman for a debut victory and two third placings.

A change of trainer to K.S. Tan, a beneficial break to nurse a foot issue and the grey Fire Away lived up to his name again in Race 3 at Kranji yesterday - thanks to a great ride by two-time champion apprentice jockey C.C. Wong.

Despite meeting a couple of nice horses, namely Star Empire and impressive trial-winning newcomer Southern Wind in the Class 4 Div 1 event over the Polytrack 1,100m, punters still jumped on the Fire Away bandwagon.

They knew the Titanium Racing Stable-owned Australian-bred youngster has loads of potential and they were duly rewarded with a $12 win payout.

Star Empire, the $14 second favourite, and Southern Wind both bombed, finishing fifth and eighth respectively in the 10-horse field.

Wong jumped Fire Away beautifully and placed his mount nice and relaxed in a handy position, as Uncle Lucky took up the running from Star Empire and Racing Talent.

Uncle Lucky led past the 600m mark, with Secret Squirrel coming into second wide out. Wong nudged Fire Away up into third. Star Empire dropped back fourth.

Uncle Lucky straightened up first but Wong had brought Fire Away to be almost abreast and hit the front 300m out. From there, the race was all over bar the shouting. Fire Away romped home by 2.25 lengths from Uncle Lucky.

Fire Away had not raced since Nov 9 last year but Tan had kept his new charge fit and fresh. During his time out, the horse blossomed.

"He muscled up and we just had to sort out that problem with his feet. Nothing serious," said Tan, who missed a quick double in the next race when the Wong-ridden $9 favourite Purple Rain lost by a neck to the Jerome Tan-trained $159 grey outsider Pennsylvania.

"I think he had some injury when he arrived in quarantine towards the end of last season. I remember Lee said just give him a break, let the feet grow up properly. So far, all has been good. The farrier has done a good job with him."

Wong said Fire Away used to play up in the gate, was slow to start and then make up ground strongly. But Tan has kept the horse very calm and relaxed

"When inside the gate, he was very quiet and already ready to go. I think he's just a three-year-old and he still has a lot of improvement - just have to keep him calm," he said.

Talking about calmness, there was a lack of it in the first two races which kept many punters on the edge of their seats. It certainly got them all fired up with heart-stopping finishes. What actually do the two races have in common?

Well, both winners came from a long last to win by the narrowest of margins, In fact, the opening event nearly ended with a triple dead-heat. Only two noses separated the first three horses.

Just when Kubera Chief looked headed for victory, $8 favourite Southern Glory lunged at the $111 outsider. Then $50 shot Avengers Hero, who was last early, powered home to make it a thrilling three-way finish. The photo-finish showed Avengers Hero just a nose in front of Southern Glory, with another nose to Kubera's Chief.

Then in Race 2, Axel ($49), who started last but passed two on settling, also produced a top run in the closing stages and just got up to beat $33 hope Gamely by a nose.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2019, with the headline 'Winning combination'. Print Edition | Subscribe