Trainer Kuah Cheng Tee is confident a more “mature” Forever Young can deliver some festive cheers on Wednesday.
The 2017 Group 1 Singapore Guineas winner is running third-up in the traditional Chinese New Year feature race, the $200,000 Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1400m) on Wednesday.
After a topsy-turvy 2018 campaign plagued by injury, the US-bred five-year-old son of Run Away And Hide turned in an encouraging performance at his second run from a post-operative nine-month layoff.
While Forever Young knocked up – presumably not 100% fit – after showing the way at his racing comeback in the Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes (1600m) on December 9, he was switched back on at his next start when he flew home to run a close-up second to Be Bee in a Class 1 race over 1200m on January 8.
With veteran jockey Azhar Ismail up, Forever Young had only 53.5kgs on his back but will shoulder 57kgs by virtue of his Group 1 and 2 wins (he also claimed the Group 2 Committee’s Prize over 1800m in 2017) as stipulated by the conditions weights of the Fortune Bowl.
Kuah did not seem to be too fussed by the extra load his valiant sprinter-miler will be saddled with. Azhar remounts in the Fortune Bowl.
“No doubt he’s got more weight this time, and the race is more open than what we expected,” said the Singaporean handler.
“But he has pulled up well since his last start. Based on his condition, I would say he is close to his best – more or less at the same level he was at when he won the Guineas.
“He’s much better now, more mature. We have been very patient with him, especially after his left fore fetlock injury in trackwork.
“He ran only four times in 2018 before the injury. After the surgery, I gave him all the time in the world to return to fitness.
“He was not ready in the Colonial Chief but he was much better at his last start. I think the visors also helped, but to me, it’s his maturity that is the key factor.”
Kuah is not losing sight of the fact the Hong Kong-owned galloper is going up against one of the most competitive fields ever assembled in the Fortune Bowl. Among his rivals are top draw material such as Singapore Horse of the Year Elite Invincible, Singapore Derby winner Jupiter Gold, Mister Yeoh, Countofmontecristo, but to name a few.
“There are some very good horses in this race this year. It won’t be easy,” said Kuah.
“He’s drawn nicely in five and if he can get some cover, I expect him to run a good race.
“(Hong Kong owner) Mr Wong Chi Tat will be in town to watch the race. He’s coming over for the Chinese New Year holidays while at the same time hoping for some luck in the Fortune Bowl.”
– Singapore Turf Club