Trelawney Stud's 2012 NZB graduate Olympic Anthem’s (StarCraft x Fire Song) sensational win on Friday achieved three firsts of sorts with the most significant being James Peters’ first win as a trainer in his own right, and the other two, close placegetters in a photo.
The 31-year-old Englishman has been the caretaker trainer after his former boss Michael Freedman returned to Australia at the beginning of the year, but officially took over the team of pretty much the same horses and owners on April 1.
With 14 winners recorded under his care but technically credited to Freedman’s name given he was still in charge until his last day of training (March 31), Peters has definitely been warming up nicely while waiting in the wings – and has not taken long to taste his first success under his own name once he sprang the gates.
From the six races he saddled horses in at his inaugural night, it was in the last race where one of his pair of runners, Olympic Anthem (other one was Bellwether) would go down on record as the very first “James Peters” winner .
To add a further sense of milestone to the event, the Starcraft five-year-old himself was scoring first-up from a five-month spell with the other sub-plot being the rider, Nooresh Juglall, who was riding his first winner since returning from an injury-enforced layoff of close to three months.
Surrounded by friends, new right-hand man Mick Lockett and representatives of the China Horse Club who race Olympic Anthem, Peters was a “relieved” man as he greeted his maiden winner.
“It’s relief more than anything else as we’ve already had a couple of seconds and thirds before,” said the former track rider and amateur jockey.
“I have to admit there was a bit more pressure tonight as it was the first time my name was on the racebooks, but there was no change to the routine.
“I’m glad I got that first winner out of the way early. The longer it drags on, the more the pressure builds up.
“I’d like to thank the Singapore Turf Club and Michael Freedman for giving me a chance to train horses here at Kranji, and the owners who have stuck by me. I’m thankful for the opportunity and the support.”
After three seconds (Dreamweaver, Shanghai Bund and Spanish Bay) and one third (Silk Route) Peters’ last hope of a fairytale start rested on either Bellwether or Olympic Anthem, and against all odds (Bellwether was better-fancied at $21), the latter ($51) did not squander that chance.
“He had bleeding issues and we’ve tried him over further and it didn’t quite work out,” said Peters.
“But he’s a nice horse who can come through when everything falls right and tonight Nooresh also gave him a great ride.”
The nod to the Mauritian jockey was a fitting wrap to all the accolades that win alone had brought up.
“A big thanks to James for giving me the opportunity to ride this horse and well done to him for his first win,” said Juglall whose flying start to the 2016 season was derailed after he hurt his back in a barrier trial fall from Silver Star on January 12, sidelining him since.
“It’s been a frustrating last three months especially when I thought it would take only six weeks at first. I was starting to wonder what kind of injury it was when it was taking longer to heal than I thought.
“It was still tough when you consider you are coming back at a time when all the jockeys are doing so well. That win has definitely come at the right time.
“James explained to me this horse can be a difficult horse to ride but I was able to get him to settle in midfield. The pace was on and once he saw daylight on the outside, I knew he could win.
“But I thought the leader (Pioneer Seven) was out of reach as we spotted him about four lengths into the home straight, but he showed a very good turn of foot to catch him and score a soft win in the end.”
The China Horse Club-owned galloper certainly left the biggest impression when he was peeled to the outside as pacemaker Pioneer Seven started to come back shortly after he looked to have settled the issue when he dashed clear at the 300m.
Well ridden by Juglall, Olympic Anthem started to put in the big bounds, before sweeping past to post a one-length win.
With that fourth success, Olympic Anthem has now amassed more than $240,000 in prizemoney for the China Horse Club. -STC