No Gray area, time to bring on the crowds, Latest Racing News

Trainer Stephen Gray is looking forward to two comebacks this Saturday, but is still keeping a level head on both counts – the return of Hard Too Think and the crowds.

The Kiwi handler has not raced his dual Group 1 winner since his meritorious second in the Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup (2,000m) last November. 

Alongside Kharisma, he contests Saturday’s $100,000 Class 1 race over 1,400m.

Gray was still proud of the son of All Too Hard, but obviously, it could not compare with his joy at the gelding’s win in the Singapore Derby (1,800m) and Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1,800m).

But everybody would have also noticed a more subdued Gray at the winner’s circle. 

The celebrations just felt hollow without the crowd adulation, and more pointedly, the jubilation of the ones who invest so much into these animals – the owners.

The reopening of Kranji from Saturday after more than two years of racing behind closed doors due to the pandemic has been well received by all and sundry.

Gray has always been one of the more vocal proponents. Cash registers will ring again, but he warned that the club does not have the foot on the till yet.

“Two owners of Hard Too Think are flying back to watch him in the Kranji Mile (May 21). One’s an Australian and the other one a New Zealander, they have already reserved a seat,” said Gray.

“This will be their first time watching Hard Too Think run ‘live’ before them. So far, they’ve watched his five wins, including the two Group 1 wins, from home.

“They won’t be here this Saturday, and neither will Untung Joesoef (Kharisma’s Indonesian owner). 

“Both horses are fit and well. Kharisma gets some weight relief from Lim’s Lightning the top weight, that gives him a chance.

“I scratched him a couple of weeks ago as I thought this handicap was a better option for him.

“They will go too fast for Hard Too Think. If it rains, that might slow them down and he could be running home, though.

“Even the Kranji Mile is not his best trip. But win, lose or draw, the owners just want to be there, and that’s what racing is all about.

“This Saturday, I’ll have three tables of owners upstairs, which is a good example of spending power, but more still needs to be done.”

Gray said the reopening should be the harbinger of not only more canapes and beers being ordered at the Grandstand Level 3.

“We have lost a lot of owners. We need to make some hard decisions,” he said.

“We’re now down to 750 horses, which is around 50 per cent less from its peak. 

“Owners still want to see our racing change for the better. More horses will bring in more revenue. 

“If we have 500 horses more, that’s $3,300 in training bills times 500 which is $1.65 million into the economy per month.

“Covid-19 was a massive problem for racing, just like a lot of businesses have been on a downward market.

“But we have to grab the bull by the horns, because now we’re just chipping away. 

“In saying this, all jockeys, trainers, staff and the club have worked so hard to keep racing going, and they should be admired for what they’ve done.

“Singapore still has the best racing model in the world, even if it has dropped off. It’s time to step up.

“We can’t lose sight of the racehorse and the people in this industry. It creates revenue and jobs.

“It’s about time that the club works with the government and find the way forward for racing in general. Racing is a sport.”

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