A barrage of 10 wins in the space of seven days has seen Kiwi trainer Mark Walker establish a 13-win lead in the Singapore trainers' premiership leading into this weekend's racing.
Walker, who won the Singapore premiership in 2015, now looks well placed to snare a second title there to go with the five he won in New Zealand.
"We're 13 ahead now and I'd rather be 13 ahead than that many behind, but there's still a little way to go yet," Walker said this week.
"Alwin Tan won the premiership last year. He's got a lot of local support and he won't lie down.
"He's got a big advantage in knowing the local language too. I haven't learnt it because I haven't wanted to know what they are saying about me," Walker quipped.
While not knowing the language might be a handicap for Walker, he has quickly adapted to most other facets of training in Singapore and has developed a good knack of striking when a horse is best placed in the ratings.
"Once they have been here for a while, horses find their right grade and then it just depends on striking the right time of the season. If you get horses in the right grade at the right time, you can have a really good run and that's what happened with us," Walker said.
"Of course, it can work against you because horses can get up to higher grades and you can have a flat period. But at the moment the horses are flying, our riders are riding in great form and we've got great staff. Everything is gelling at the moment.
"We've got a lot of horses that have won two or three races this season whereas other seasons, they might have won just one. We've just had a good, consistent run this year."
Walker has his allocated box allowance of 60 full, mainly with New Zealand-bred horses, which he prefers.
"They are the toughest and the soundest and their durability is far superior to anything that races here," Walker said.
"We have horses in Singapore sourced from all around the world, but the New Zealand-breds far perform beyond the norm. They are brought up naturally, not fed up to be too big as young horses and because of that there's not the same pressure on their joints and they are so sound.
"And they are the best value for money as well. Karaka is always the best buying. You don't have to spend the earth to get a top-class horse. You only have to look at a horse like War Affair who has been a top performer up here. Dave [Ellis, Te Akau boss] only paid $70,000 for him at Karaka."
New Zealand-bred horses have won 45 per cent of all races in Singapore this season, while War Affair, a son of O’Reilly and now in the care of fellow Kiwi trainer Bruce Marsh is on the verge of breaking the $3 million mark in prizemoney.
One of the key aspects of Walker's success in Singapore has been getting the right systems in place and he revealed he splits the season into two halves, so as he prepares for the second half of the year, he is preparing to bring in a fresh wave of horses.
"We've got 22 horses hand-walking at the moment, fresh for the second part of the season. I've just found splitting sections of the team for certain parts of the season works really well," Walker said.
"We've been here for a while now and we know the system. Gus and Karen Clutterbuck have been with us virtually from day one up here and they know how our stable runs intimately. We've surrounded ourselves with really good staff and we've got a good bunch of owners. Everything is working really well."
Among the horses Walker is looking forward to stepping out in the coming weeks are unraced Sebring two-year-old gelding Ferocious, a Ready To Run purchase that will debut at Kranji next Friday, and Mastercraftsman five-year-old gelding Nazir, a winner of two of his last four starts.
"We always look forward to the new horses because they are the future of the barn and we've got a good opinion of Ferocious," Walker said.
"Nazir had reasonable Sydney form, but he's got up here and improved out of sight. Hopefully he's the type of horse who could end up in the Singapore Gold Cup for us later on."
Walker said there were positive signs for the future of racing in Singapore, especially with new initiatives brought by the appointment of new chief executive Chong Boo Ching.
"He's put a bit of spark back into the club," Walker said.
"Racing here had gone through a bit of a flat spot when the international races went but there are good ideas coming out of the head offices and new incentives with better prize money."
Walker was back in New Zealand last week supervising the Matamata stables, with Stephen Autridge on holiday and Jamie Richards campaigning the Te Akau team in Brisbane, and he relished the opportunity to catch up with old friends, but there was one thing he was pleased to escape.
"I'm certainly not missing those cold mornings. You don't get those in Singapore," he said. - NZ Racing Desk.