Trainers’ premiership wins are nothing new to Mark Walker, but a
winning double at Kranji yesterday was the definitive way to add his
first Singapore championship to his five New Zealand titles.
At the end of his fifth full season in charge of New Zealand’s Te
Akau Racing operation in Singapore, 43-year-old Walker claimed the
premiership with 87 wins. Singaporean Alvin Tan was runner-up on 72 wins
and Australian Michael Freedman third on 69.
Laurie Laxon, the Melbourne Cup-winning trainer who has dominated
Singapore training ranks and the first to prepare 1,000 winners at
Kranji, this year finished fifth on 66 wins. Walker’s previous best
premiership placing was second with 73 wins in 2013, five behind Laxon
when he claimed his ninth title.
On a season-ending raceday with a dominant Kiwi flavour, Walker
saddled up two winners in the Te Akau colours, Lady Iffraaj, a daughter
of former top filly Naturo, and Thorn Park gelding Clutha Lad. The seven
New Zealand-bred winners on the 11-race card included the Laxon-trained
Any Suggestion gelding Katagas and Savabeel gelding Classified for
The spotlight, however, belonged to Walker as he acknowledged the
team effort that went into his achievement. “We saddled a big team on
Friday (12) and today (19), and to get four winners was a bit expected,”
he told the Singapore Turf Club’s Michael Lee. “The score could have
been better as we had many seconds - three today and two last Friday -
but to get 86 winners, I can’t complain.
“Again, I can’t stress enough it was a team effort all year round
from Gussy (Clutterbuck, assistant trainer) to all the syces
(stablehands) as well as the track riders and my two main jockeys,
Shafiq (Rizuan) and (Manoel) Nunes.”
Walker also acknowledged the crucial role played by his mentor and
business partner. “Well done to David Ellis who bought those two at
Karaka relatively cheap. Lady Iffraaj cost only $27,000 while I think
Clutha Lad cost $42,000,” he said. “Clutha Lad is no superstar but he’s
already won around $250,000 for David. If you want to go shopping, you
should go to Karaka.”
Walker plans to return to New Zealand tomorrow for the Christmas
holiday break, when he will be able to observe first-hand the part being
played by his Matamata-based Te Akau counterparts Stephen Autridge and
Jamie Richards as they lead the way on the New Zealand trainers’ table
with 42 wins.
Monday 14th December 2015