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Wong gets it right with Optimum results
Michael Lee

Jimmy Wong Chin Chuen may not ride winners by the spades like he used to during his golden years as a leading apprentice jockey, but Optimum Star’s convincing win in Sunday’s concluding event served as a gentle reminder the Penang boy rides as well as ever.


Since the two-time Singapore champion apprentice jockey outrode his one-kilo claim from July 1, quality rides, let alone winners, have dropped off noticeably, but the gifted jockey, who recently tied the knot with his sweetheart Charlene, has still been able to strike up his fair share of winners – four from just over 100 rides.


Optimum Star’s postage-stamp weight of 50kgs in Sunday’s $50,000 Class 4 Division 2 race over 1200m, as well as his book of five rides, all weighted at the lower end of the handicaps tells the story. To Wong, being a natural lightweight has its perks, just as it can also be a double-edged sword. 

Optimum Star (Wong Chin Chuen) beats Elise (Benny Woodworth) to score in the Lucky Last.

“I get a lot of lightweight rides, which means I still get good support even after I lost my claim. But most of the time, they are out of the handicap, and it’s harder for them to win,” said Wong.


“I still try and work out how to get a few more lengths out of them, and today, things panned out very well for that horse.


“The tempo was just nice, he did everything right. Mr Takaoka told me to ride him closer to the pace as he’s a one-pacer.


“He can stay as he ran over longer at his last couple of starts, and he just kept running through the line.”


Wong’s first winner as a full-fledged jockey came on July 12 aboard Quadcopter, who is incidentally trained by Takaoka, who has been utilising his services more often of late.


“I’ve always had support from Mr Takaoka, but when I was still an apprentice, I was unable to help him as often,” said the former David Hill and Tan Kah Soon protégé.


“Now that I’m a freelance and I’m not tied up with any trainer, I can help him out with trackwork in the morning.”


Takaoka said that Optimum Star, who is out of a mare he trained, Optimum Note, found his mojo after being brought back to his preferred short sprints.


“We tried to run him over 1400m and 1600m on grass in Class 4 races, but it was too tough for him,” said the Japanese handler.


“We brought him back over Polytrack and it’s paid off.”


After settling midfield in between runners in the first 500m of the race, Optimum Star ($51) took closer order approaching the first bend, sliding up on the tail of Mr Coppola (Daniel Moor) while favourite Elise (Benny Woodworth) dictated terms at a steady tempo upfront.


As the 12-horse field cornered for the judge, Elise did what he does at that stage of the race - go hard up against the rails in the hope no-one comes from behind to nail him.


But at the 300m pole, it was clear as day that Optimum Star was travelling a lot better than the noted frontrunner. Under an inspiring ride from Wong, the New Zealand-bred six-year-old by Roc De Cambes kept finding to score with 1 ¼ lengths to spare from Elise and bring up a fourth win for the Star Racing No 2 Stable.


Mr Coppola boxed on for third place another 1 ½ lengths away, an encouraging performance after shedding his maiden status in Maiden company at his last start.


With Optimum Star’s three victories at his previous 33 Kranji starts having all come over the all-weather and distances ranging between 1100m and 1200m, it is evident where his strongest suit lies. He has now amassed prizemoney to the tune of $125,000 for his Japanese connections.