Outgoing trainer Bruce Marsh could not have scripted his farewell meeting any better when he led in his favourite horse, old marvel Supernova, as his last Singapore winner on Sunday.
The 69-year-old New Zealander has called a day on his 14-year-old stint at Kranji with the stable being handed over to his assistant-trainer Jason Ong from Monday.
Already a successful trainer at his Woodville stables in New Zealand before he made the big move in 2005, Marsh carried on as the quiet achiever he has always been to go and reach the same lofty heights at Kranji, notably with two Emirates Singapore Derby wins – the first one, Hello And Goodbye, remarkably his very first winner at Kranji and Race Ahead the second one – and a Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge clean sweep with Gingerbread Man, among others.
But that heart-stopping win by 11-year-old Supernova in a modest $50,000 Class 4 race over the Polytrack mile will undoubtedly rank highly among his long list of achievements in New Zealand and Kranji combined, or even Australia where the former jockey won the world-famous Melbourne Cup with Silver Knight in 1971.
Just to see a host of his peers like Lee Freedman, Donna Logan, John O’Hara, Tan Kah Soon, Cliff Brown and even ex-trainer Brian Dean as well as owners like Mr Cheah Kim Teck, Mr Ong Boon Hin (Jason’s father), jockeys, syces, officials come down to celebrate with him and wish him well at the winner’s circle was a measure of how popular Marsh was among the close-knit Kranji racing fraternity.
“I’m so pleased Supernova won my last race here. Zy (Nor Azman, his apprentice jockey) gave him a perfect 10-out-of-10 ride,” said Marsh who had wife Kay by his side.
“I’ve never seen Zy so strong to the line. I’m over the moon.
“This horse is my favourite at the stable. He’s got good clean legs, he’s a real ‘class’ horse. To do this when he is such an old horse is just amazing.
“I’d like to thank all the owners who have supported me from Day 1 and my marvellous staff, too.”
Freedman, who has struck a great friendship with Marsh since he arrived in Singapore in September 2017, was rapt to see his Kiwi mate go out on a winning note.
“It’s fantastic for Bruce to do it with an old horse who’s 11. It couldn’t get any better than this,” said the Singapore champion trainer.
“Is he in for a great night? I would imagine a fair bit, but I hope mine just gets better!”
It actually did two races later when the Australian saddled his first winner in even-money favourite Muraahib, but the Australian went one step further by calling Marsh’s win even more fulfilling.
“I’m happy I won, but to be honest, I’m happier to see Bruce win with Supernova. He’s a good mate and it couldn’t have ended any better than that,” he said.
While it was written in the skies Supernova would be the 417th and last bright shining star among Marsh’s constellation of winners at Kranji, it was also fitting it was supplied by his long-serving protégé Zy.
“That’s the least I could do for my boss. He has always been supportive and also sent me to New Zealand (for further training),” said the Singaporean rider.
“To do it for him, have his favourite horse win on the line, I’m just so honoured to be the jockey to do that for him, for the horse.
“I gave it my all inside the last 200m. Even Supernova was giving his best.
“In the last 50m, I was like ‘come on, boy, get there, get there’ and he got there. I’m very happy.”
Supernova ($35) always had leader Green Star (Syahir Abdul) in his sights, staying within whiffing distance and all poised to strike for that dream finale for his trainer.
In the home straight, it was heading towards a two-horse race with the other 10 runners struggling to make ground from the rear. Green Star, however, kicked clear and for a fleeting second, it looked like Marsh would have to rely on his last three runners (Dreamer Legend, Blitz Power and Uncle Lucky) for that fairytale ending.
But Zy threw everything at the 11-year-old bar the sink. It was almost like time had come to a standstill with that invisible bond between horse and trainer playing out in slow motion.
Supernova might have been at an age when many of his peers would be put to pasture, but here he was at that epic defining moment, digging deep into his entrails and reserve tank like a three-year-old, pumping every blood from his arteries through that big heart of his for only one man.
The margin slowly but surely got worn down with both horses lunging at the line locked together. It was the stuff of legends in the making.
Kranji held its breath – and to the explosion of joy felt across the grandstand and beyond (definitely in New Zealand where our races are watched ‘live’ every week), the racing Gods have smiled on Supernova – and for one last time on his trainer, Rangi Bruce Marsh.