General Conatus gives trainer KS Tan first winner

The last 200m of the Class 5 Division 2 event over 1,400m in Race 5 yesterday must surely have set his heart racing with immense excitement to the point of almost exploding.

After all, his charge General Conatus was inching closer and closer on Happy Joy and a win would give him his first winner of his training career.

It was pulsatingly close – certainly not for the faint-hearted – and first-season trainer Tan Kah Soon must have heaved a big sigh of relief when General Conatus put his head down where it mattered most, the winning post.

The son of former Penang trainer Dr Tan Swee Hock was breathless after saddling his maiden victory with his ninth runner, as visibly showed at the post-race interview.

“Very happy, thank you very much,” said Tan, who secured his stables on Sept 1 but filed his first runner only on Sept 29.

“Over 1,700m the last start, he got away too keen, you know, and Jimmy (CC Wong) was the first one to come back and say we should have let him roll along rather than hold him up,

“So we thought today drop him down to 1,400m, just let him roll and see what he does. It was good.”

Wong jumped General Conatus out quickly but Super Big, who opened as the favourite but eased to be the $20 second-favourite, surged to a two-length lead but was soon covered by Pomp.

At the halfway mark, Super Big was slightly ahead of Pomp, with almost two lengths to King Of Thieves and Happy Joy on his inside. General Conatus was a lonely fifth, a similar gap away.

Super Big led into the straight from Pomp but both horses had almost emptied their tanks.

They came back to the field at the 200m mark, where Happy Joy on the inside, the last-minute $18 favourite Bastions, who had loomed up menacingly, and General Conatus on the outside, joined in the fray.

Happy Joy drew first blood but Wong pushed General Conatus to the limit, and the two horses kicked away to fight like gladiators in the ring of death.

Happy Joy held on stubbornly under M Zaki’s riding, but Wong managed to squeeze General Conatus to edge him out on the line to pay a juicy $44 for his sixth success in 51 starts .

His first five wins were trained by Sonny Yeoh, who has since relinquished his licence.

Wong said that although it was just a nomal race, it was very important to him because Tan had helped him since young.

“He helped me a lot and taught me about racing, and I feel really happy to have got the first winner for him,” said the reigning champion apprentice.

When asked by race commentator-cum-presenter Matthew Jones to reveal more about himself, Tan was succinct in his reply, peeking at his winner at the winner’s circle and he was not about to miss the chance to take a photograph with his first career winner.

“Worked with horses all my whole life – maybe too long,” he said, and was excused to join the photo session.

Born in Ipoh in 1980 with racing blood running in his veins, he started mucking out boxes at his father’s stables during his Form 5 school holidays.

He also came under the tutelage of Penang-based 13-time Malayan Racing Association champion trainer Teh Choon Beng.

It was not until he completed his tertiary studies at Murdoch University in Perth, earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management and a masters in economics, that Tan decided to make racing his career.

With luck, he got a great head-start, one on the world stage. In 2002, he was among the first draft of students enrolled in the prestigious Darley Flying Start, now known as Godolphin Flying Start.

After graduating from the two-year course, Tan jumped at the opportunity of staying with Sheikh Mohammed’s world-famous Godolphin operation.

He spent seven years with Godolphin, from 2005 to 2012, and was tasked with medical treatment and barrier education. He criss-crossed between Newmarket, England, in summer and Dubai in winter.

After his return to Malaysia to assist his father, he was bent on trying his luck in the more competitive Singapore scene.

In October 2014, he secured a job with Kranji trainer Sam Chua but moved to trainer David Hill after Chua left the training arena.

After obtaining his Malayan Racing Association licence this year, Tan completed his journey of starting on his own when the Singapore Turf Club gave him the stables from Sept 1.

Story by Tan Thean Loon, Racing Editor, The New Paper