Jackpot bells rang wild for the rare brave who had a flutter on big outsider El Chapo on Tuesday night, but for his rider Shafrizal Saleh, all he could hear at the end of the S$85,000 Restricted Maiden race (1200m) were wedding bells!
The former Malaysian-based apprentice jockey ties the knot with his sweetheart Zairina on Friday. El Chapo was his sixth winner for the year – and no doubt the one he will remember a little better, having come in just a few days before his big day.
“It’s a nice surprise and a nice early wedding present at the same time,” said the Penang-born Shafrizal, 30, who lives just across the Causeway in Johor Bahru.
“I’m getting married to my fiancée Zairina on Friday. She’s a Johorian and I’ve known her for about one year.”
With two unplaced runs at his previous stint under the care of trainer David Kok, El Chapo, who was also first-up for Shafrizal’s master Michael Clements after a long break of six months, was unsurprisingly friendless in the betting ring.
But Shafrizal rode the Joe Singh-owned Niagara three-year-old with great patience, not panicking one bit when tearaway leader Ban The Doubt (Zawari Razali) swung in with a healthy lead.
As half-expected, the staggers soon set in for the Mark Walker-trained Ban The Doubt, which was the cue Grand Knight (Nooresh Juglall) and El Chapo needed to pull the trigger.
Grand Knight was the first to sweep past the fast-fading Ban The Doubt , but it was El Chapo, named after the famous Mexican drug lord, who showed who was the boss as he snuck up on the inside to defeat Grand Knight by three parts of a length.
Alamak (Vlad Duric), a newcomer of Clements’, charged home late for third another 2 ¾ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 9.5secs for the 1200m on the Long Course.
“I was told not to lead and just let him stride. The pace was fast and I thought Zawari’s horse would have to come back to us,” said Shafrizal.
“I first thought of going on the outside but Juglall’s horse rolled off a little and I had to go for the inside run instead. My horse showed a nice turn of foot.”
Clements’ assistant-trainer Michael White said El Chapo may not be the most striking customer in the yard, but he certainly has a bit of an engine.
“He showed good ability even if he was a bit backward and he is not the best put-together horse,” said White.
“But his work was good, his trial was good. They went hard and he put in a good effort.
“Shafrizal also rode him very patiently on the rails. Congratulations to the groom!”
El Chapo was purchased by Singh for $30,000 from Curraghmore's 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run draft.-STC