where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2023-05-16 05:10:08  
Calvin Habib to Return to South Africa

The 26-year-old former Joburg based Calvin Habib has decided to cut short his one-year Singapore Turf Club licence to return to South Africa to continue his career.

Habib has ridden only two winners in 51 rides over 12 meetings since his Kranji debut in February.

But he did not cite the low score as the reason for his sudden exit – more the low number of meetings.

“At this point in time, I’m at the prime of my career,” said Habib, a winner of more than 330 races in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“Back home, I used to ride 35 to 40 horses a week. When I was approached to come here, I was told the club would race twice a week around the middle of the season.

“But till now, the horse population is still low and the field sizes are not getting any bigger.

“I’ve ridden only two winners, but even if I had ridden 10 winners by now, I would’ve still gone back.”

Habib is confident he will not be met with the same paltry results at his old stomping ground.

“I’m heading home because all the feature races come up in the next two months,” he added.

“It’s early days, but I’ve spoken to trainers like Sean Tarry, who gave me all my four Group 1 winners, Tony Peter and Wendy Whitehead, and I hope to get rides from them.

“(Wife) Shandre and I haven’t booked tickets yet, but the plan is to be back in Johannesburg in time to ride on May 23 at Turffontein.”

Success in the Southeast-Asian jurisdiction was elusive, but Habib still put a positive spin on his five months, both on and off the track.

“I did enjoy the country and the system in place here. But I’ve also appreciated the experience I gained here,” he said.

“I’m taking away many positive things. I’ll go back a better rider, more professional as a whole.

“In Singapore, you’re more aware of a lot of factors, you’re more involved with the horses. You get to know them better as you ride them a couple of times a week.

“The pace of the races is also a lot quicker here. Every decision is a split-second decision, you must be as fast as possible and anticipate what could happen.

“You ride with different jockeys from different parts of the world whereas in South Africa, we all come from the same academy.

“You get to learn from the other jockeys and that can only help you improve yourself.”

His first win on the Hideyuki Takaoka-trained Wind Trail showcased both his tactical nous and strength in a tight finish while the second on Takanini was easier.

“Wind Trail gave me my first happy memory even though it was a Class 4 race,” he said.

“I loved the short-head win after a heads-up, heads-down battle with two other horses.”

Habib is booked for five rides at his farewell meeting, including Circuit Mission in the SG$1 million Gr1 Kranji Mile.

The James Peters-trained galloper ran a creditable fifth for him in the Group 1 Raffles Cup (1,600m) on March 25, but still faces mammoth odds to turn the tables on the winner Lim’s Kosciuszko.

Habib does not, however, write off his chances of walking away with a win that would single-handedly salvage his Singapore stint.

“That would be a fairytale ending if that happened,” he said. “He ran fifth for me in the big race, he just needs luck, a good barrier.

“In big races, anything can happen, like the pace is too quick. You also need the right horse and my horse does have ability.”

In Takanini, whom he rode to a luckless sixth in the Gr2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic, he had another good bullet in the Gr2 Singapore Guineas. But it was not to be.

“Unfortunately, the Guineas was moved from May 20 to 27. I won’t be there,” he said.

“Takanini is an exciting horse. He will win a Group race one day.If he wins the Guineas, I’ll be smiling at home because it proved I was right about him.Thanks to Mr Michael Clements for his support, but also Mr Takaoka, CT (Cheng Tee) Kuah and Mr Stephen Gray.It would be absolutely awesome if I could come back one day – so long they race twice a week again.” 

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