Habib Cracks Singapore First

South African jockey Calvin Habib finally had his first taste of sweet success in Singapore after Wind Trail got up in an exciting finish in the $50,000 Super Easy 2012 Stakes, a Class 4 race (2000m) on Saturday.

With two rides (Istataba and Petrograd) scratched and two others that yielded nothing on Saturday, the 26-year-old hoop looked to go home empty-handed again at his eighth meeting in Singapore, but a win by a head on his 37th ride brought the big smile back on his face.

But, his win atop the Hideyuki Takaoka-trained Wind Trail was no stroll in the park either.

Wind Trail (blinkered) gives jockey Calvin Habib his first winner in Singapore on Saturday.

After Wind Trail switched off in third behind lamplighter Lim’s Puncak Jaya (Marc Lerner) and Fort Mustang (Amirul Ismadi), the sequence in the nine-horse field remain largely unchanged until backmarker Prioritize (Manoel Nunes) moved up wide to join the two leaders upon cornering.

Habib then decided to leave the paint at the 400m in order to give the eight-year-old son of Screen Hero every chance in the straight. Once Wind Trail balanced up in the final furlong, Habib brought out the whip to send him a few reminders.

Up front, Fort Mustang has dropped off, Prioritize looked to be dawdling and Lim’s Puncak Jaya was not making up much ground. Wind Trail ($49) quickly gained ascendancy under a strong urging from Habib in the final 100m, before fending off Tony’s Love (Shafrizal Saleh) on his outside to score.

Prioritize hung on well to finish another neck in third in the busy three-way go. The winning time was 2 min 5.99secs for the 2000m on the Short Course.

With seven placings in 36 rides previously, Habib has taken close to two months to throw the monkey off his back since he made his riding debut in Singapore on February 12 this year, but the optimistic young lad always believed that he will “slowly but surely” get his first winner at Kranji.

“It’s been a bit of a tough one because I haven’t got one (winner) since coming here but we plugged on and there’s finally a winner,” said the 2018/2019 Zimbabwe champion jockey who is contracted to ride in Singapore till December 31 this year.

“I want to thank the trainer, Mr Takaoka, for his support. I thought he (Wind Trail) had a good chance because his trackwork this week was good and we were pleased with him.

“Also, he got a good draw (two) and the speed is on, so I just bided my time and switched off and had a good run.

“He was tracking so well into the race and I thought we’d win at the 400m. He was really gutsy to the line.”

Though Habib realised his dream of riding in Singapore after a nudge from ex-Kranji jockey Johnny Geroudis to apply for a long-term licence here, there were times when he felt that the going got tough, and that was when he turned to his wife Shandré Hoffmann and his family as his pillars of support.

“I want to also thank my beautiful wife Shandré who arrived here a few weeks ago. We stay in a condominium at Hillview now,” said Habib, who had his wife by his side at the winner’s circle.

“She really pushed me and supported me through this journey. Together with my family and my in-laws, they are my greatest supporters.

“My dad (and ex-jockey) Donavan, my mum Amanda and my older brother Devon watched every meeting from Mauritius, and my mother and father in-law, Sheryl and André, did so from South Africa too.

“My parents are also flying to Singapore on April 17 to support me here. They will be here until April 28 and will be at the races on April 23!”

As thrilled as he was after he landed his first win in Singapore, Habib clearly understood the importance of casting his net wide should he want to reach the personal goals he has set for himself in the year.

“I am riding trackwork for pretty much anyone at the moment to get around and form relationships with as many trainers as I can to make the most of this opportunity,” said Habib, who first came to Singapore six years ago when his cousin and jockey Derreck David rode at Kranji.

“I said before when I first came here that 20 to 25 winners in a season would be good and right now, I would still try to reach this goal.

“We strive as high as we can, and whatever else comes, I’ll take it. If I get a Group 1 win here, it would be the cherry on top."

Takaoka, on the other hand, was surprised to know that Wind Trail handed Habib his first win in Singapore.

“Oh that’s his first winner here? I’m very happy for him,” said the Japanese handler.

“He’s very hardworking. He would come to our stables and work the horses every morning.

“We actually wanted Marc (Lerner) to ride this horse, but he picked another horse (Lim’s Puncak Jaya), so we got Calvin instead. He rode the horse very well.”

Wind Trail, who last scored in a Kranji Stakes C race (1800m) on March 27 last year, has now won five races and took his earnings to over $250,000 for the Galahad Racing Stable.


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