Mr Malek felt the ground: Harry

Malaysian jockey A’Isisuhairi Kasim said he gave beaten Singapore Derby favourite Mr Malek every chance on Sunday, but race circumstances just didn’t go their way.

The Steven Burridge-trained Group 2 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) winner was given by most a bright chance to pull off the 4YO feature double in the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m), but the son of Swiss Ace could only finish fourth to surprise winner Hard Too Think (Marc Lerner).

“Mr Malek was very unlucky, but he also had a few excuses in the Derby,” said the lightweight jockey better known as ‘Harry’.

Mr Malek and A'Isisuhairi Kasim were unable to reproduce their Stewards' Cup heroics in the Singapore Derby, picture Singapore Turf Club

“He just couldn’t get a good position in the running, he had to cover more ground out wide. I wanted to get a bit of cover as it was his first time at the distance, all so he could finish off a bit better.

“But I must also say the track was also very firm, he didn’t let down as he normally does.

“Even (runner-up) Big Hearted seemed to be struggling. He wanted to do more, but the track was rock-hard.

“The race just didn’t pan out the way we wanted.”

Despite a smart getaway from an outside barrier (six), two horses were quicker than Mr Malek on his inside – race-leader Senor Don (Wong Chin Chuen) and outsider Teller (Matthew Kellady), and when A’Isisuhairi attempted to ease him back around the pair, Shafiq Rizuan on Savvy Command was not about to let him tuck in as he held his spot outside box-seater Sun Power (Hakim Kamaruddin).

It’s a Group 1 race with a $400,000 purse up for grabs to the winner and placegetters; jostling for the best position without giving your adversaries an inch is par for the course.

When asked if he could have rolled forward when the place slackened up a touch midrace, A’Isisuhairi is adamant he made the right decision to stay where he was.

“If it was a 1400m or 1600m race and I was in that situation, maybe I could have been a bit more positive and come across to get a good position,” he said.

“But I didn’t want to push on over 1800m as I didn’t want to use him too much, especially over the long stretch at the back.

“Even if he was three wide without cover, the pace was steady, and he was travelling so relaxed. I knew he would give me more and give a good fight.

“But unfortunately, he didn’t, even if he stuck on well when the others passed him in the straight.”

A crestfallen A’Isisuhairi returned to the scales. He couldn’t really blame himself, and neither did Burridge, but he couldn’t help wondering if he had not spurned his best chance of adding one of Singapore’s most coveted prizes to a trophy cabinet which is nonetheless already impressive for a local jockey.

Ever since his first feature race success on Trudeau as an apprentice jockey in the Group 2 EW Barker Trophy in 2013, the former two-time Singapore champion apprentice jockey has never missed a silverware in a season having now chalked up a tally of 11 Group wins.

“Steven understood and said there was not much I could do, but obviously, I’m disappointed I didn’t win the Derby,” he said.

“I’ve won the Raffles Cup, and the QEII Cup when it was a Group 2 race (in 2014 with Wild Geese), but the Derby is the race I really wanted to win.

“Mr Malek was my highest chance to make it, but it wasn’t meant to be. We move on and I’m sure we’ll have better luck next time.

“But it won’t be the Derby. I’ll have to find another good four-year-old!”