Story sourced from Singapore Turf Club Website Michael Lee 27/08/17
Sonny Yeoh bowed out on a winning note as he called time on five years of training career in Singapore on Sunday.
The younger brother of former vet-turned-trainer Dr Yeoh Kheng Chye is hanging up his binoculars exactly five years after he began operations on September 1, 2012, citing personal reasons for his decision. He officially returns his stables on August 31.
The Penang native flew off the starting blocks with a smashing first full season on 31 winners (his highest haul) in 2013, the headline act being no doubt Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge clean sweep hero Stepitup. He kept up the momentum with 22 winners the next year, but his record nosedived to only nine (2015) and seven (2016) the next two seasons.
Standing on 16 winners before Sunday, Yeoh saddled four runners for his last day at the office, but saw his chances of a fairytale ending reduced by 25 per cent when the well-in-the-market Conatus G was scratched in Race 2.
After Dragonhead ran nowhere in Race 3, it was left to his well-fancied duo of General Conatus (Derreck David) and Super G (Michael Rodd) in the $35,000 Class 5 race over 1700m to give the amiable trainer the perfect send-off.
In his own words, his heart was “pounding” when Super G, all this time a maiden after 13 starts, came with a withering run to hit the lead at the 300m.
It looked like favourite Mongolian Chief (Troy See) was the only one in the 12-horse field who could spoil the farewell party in the concluding stages, but Super G ($29) kept striding away to fall in by 1 ¼ lengths with Carnelian (Mohd Zaki) third another 2 ¼ lengths away.
Yeoh’s second runner General Conatus whipped around with a looping run from the 800m in a bid to inject more speed into the race, even looking the part as the one who could etch his name as Yeoh’s last winner when he hit the front under David’s urgings at the top of the straight, but he faded late to run fifth.
The winning time was 1min 46.64secs for the 1700m on the Polytrack.
Forever the consummate professional, Yeoh still headed straight to the dismounting yard to check on General Conatus first before heading to the winner’s stall for that last 94th winner.
But as he was able to relax better, it was apparent the win had come as a sheer relief for him.
“I trained a winner at my very last race, it’s great because my heart was pounding before the race!” the man of few words said, and yet still summing it up the best.
“It’s nice to end on a winning note after five years here at Kranji. I take this opportunity to thank the Singapore Turf Club and its Committee Members, the CEO for helping me, and also my owners and my staff.
“Super G may be my last winner, but the good news is he will carry on racing, just like my other horses when they move to other stables.”
When asked to name his best memories, unsurprisingly Stepitup, incidentally the first of his 94 winners on September 28, 2012 popped up in a flash.
“Stepitup was the best horse I trained and he gave me my biggest moment when he won all the three Legs of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge,” said Yeoh who is one month shy of his 56th birthday (September 25).
“My biggest disappointment is my decision to stop training. I wish I could stay longer but I had to go for personal reasons.
“It’s still been a great ride.”
Though Rodd does not often ride for Yeoh (he was at only his second winning ride for him after Amazing Man on March 17), the Australian jockey still paid a fitting tribute to the man who has slipped into Kranji in his typical quiet manner, never blowing his own trumpet, and who has tiptoed out in the same no-frills, no-fanfare way, but aptly with a winner.
“It’s great to ride Sonny’s last winner here,” said Rodd.
“He’s a humble man and I’ve always enjoyed having a chat with him, especially when it comes to recommending a nice restaurant, be it here or Hong Kong or Taiwan.
“He’s always smiling, he doesn’t get upset. He is a level-headed guy and it’s sad that we are losing a great stalwart.
“As for the winner, he is still a colt and is well-bred. He is by High Chaparral, meaning he was the best bred horse in the field.
“He trialled like a solid Class 4 horse the other day. Barrier 1 was a bit tricky, but he overcame that.
“In the straight, I thought I went too soon. I saw Derreck David up there and I thought we had the quinella for Sonny, so that’s why I let him go.
“Unfortunately the other horse ran out of steam but my horse kept going and it was a fantastic result in the end.”
Quite interestingly, Yeoh was sharing his final day with a much more decorated trainer in nine-time Singapore champion trainer Laurie Laxon, but he somehow stole the thunder of the Kiwi legend, who failed to saddle a winner from his small team of five runners, coming up short by half-a-length with his last runner Lim’s Shot in the penultimate race.
When asked what he had planned after training, Yeoh gave the safe answer which would make most husbands smile.
“I’ll ask the wife,” he said, and on that note, the quiet man of Kranji walked into the sunset.