One of the world’s largest owners landed his first winner in Singapore when First Express took out the $35,000 Maiden Stakes over 1600m on the Polytrack on Friday night.
Bringing up a double for jockey Stephen Baster, First Express outplugged his rivals to score by a neck from Ktronic (Ivaldo Santana) with Prize Fighter (Zawari Razali) a half-length back in third place.
Katsuhiko Hirai, of Eishen Farms in Japan, races the Australian-bred gelding which was having his tenth start in Singapore on Friday night.
Jockey Stephen Baster drives First Express to the line for his maiden success on Friday night, picture Singapore Turf Club
Michael Kneebone, who looks after the interests of the owner in Singapore, said the gelding was being prepared for a career in Hong Kong until he injured himself back in New Zealand.
“He was favourite for a race as a two-year-old in New Zealand one day when he flipped over in the float on the way to races,” said Kneebone.
“Katsuhiko had been here once before and quite like what he saw so he decided that rather than send the horse to Hong Kong he would send him here to Singapore to race.
“He’s got a number of horses around the world and would possibily be the third or fourth biggest owner in the world.
“I don’t have a lot to do as this is the first horse that he’s raced and the only one he’s got here in Singapore but we would certainly like to see a few more come this way.”
Winning trainer Stephen Gray said it took him a few runs to realise that First Express was more of a stayer than the sprinter he was preparing when he first arrived in Singapore.
“He had raced in New Zealand before coming here and had run second over 880m and we thought he was a sprinter,” said Gray.
“But he was such a hot head when we came here and was showing pace and not finishing his races off.
“It was then we realised that he was more of a stayer so I thought why not start again and let him find his feet in his races.
“Stevie rode him well tonight. He was nice and relaxed and he got home well and got off him and said there should be more wins to come from him.”
A four-year-old by Dehere from the Fusaichi Pegasus mare In Essence, First Express had three placings to his credit from his nine previous starts and with Friday night’s success too him prizemoney to around $45,000 for connections.