Josh McLoughlan knows a good horse when he sees one
In May of last year, at the jumpouts in Victoria, Australia, the Jig Bloodstock principal gave an unraced two-year-old his expert eye. He was impressed with what he observed.
Golden Monkey, who is currently favored to win the $300,000 Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200 meters) on Sunday, was that horse.
Golden Monkey, who won the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200 meters) and Group 2 Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic (1400 meters) as a three-year-old in 2022, will now test his luck against the top sprinters in Singapore as a four-year-old.
At the weight-for-age conditions, a big ask. The younger horses would have received two kilograms of allowance in the premier sprint event, which was run in April of last year and won by Lim's Lightning. The Southern Hemisphere-bred Golden Monkey would have lost half a kilogram by age three if it had raced just two weeks earlier in July of this year.
And it matters a lot in a race like the Lion City Cup, where even the legendary Rocket Man, who set a record by winning it four times (from 2009 to 2012), received two kg of weight relief when he won his first in 2009.
Golden Monkey was so dominant in the three-year-old feature races that he had to be a contender in the Lion City Cup, even though no one is claiming he's in the Rocket Man stratosphere.
How then did McLoughlan end up on the Golden Monkey journey with his multitude of primarily Australian owners?
Ironically, the Star Turn gelding's poor performance led to a change of ownership.
On Thursday afternoon, McLoughlan remarked, "I asked about him (Golden Monkey) after his jumpout before he raced but he was well out of my price range.
"He had a price tag from Hong Kong, but I paid great attention to him, and after he hadn't won in approximately five Australian starts, I put in another offer.
"While he wasn't winning, some of his runs behind some nice horses were good enough to think he had a future and Singapore would be ideal," the speaker said. "I knew he had been vetted for Hong Kong."
Craig and Victor Elvin, longtime clients, joined the venture for a significant portion, and McLoughlan did something he does not do frequently: he syndicated the remaining shares of Golden Monkey to some close friends.
Old friends and horses sometimes don't get along, so I try to keep them from owning horses with me, he said.
Vic and Craig are my closest friends and biggest supports, but they are also skilled racers. The remainder of the group, I assumed, would just enjoy riding a good horse in Singapore so they could travel and enjoy themselves."
It's true that roughly 15 owners traveled to Singapore from Australia, and McLoughlan will have a full week with golf, dinners, and racing on the schedule.
The Australian stated, "I'm trying to take it easy as Sunday will be a huge day, but it's amazing for the owners to be here."
"I'll be busy, but I love it. Some are at the golf course today, and others are coming tonight.
It's a tremendous delight to share with excellent friends because having a runner in a Group 1 race is uncommon.
Many people in the horse racing world, including trainer Tim Fitzsimmons and jockey Mark Zahra, who is flying in to ride Golden Monkey in the Lion City Cup, are close friends of McLoughlan because he grew up in the horse racing region of rural Victoria.
He declared, "Mark is one of the top jockeys in the world.
"(Jockey) Jake (Bayliss) did everything right when he won on Golden Monkey in the (Singapore 3YO) Classic, and while we would have wanted to keep him, Mark was always our top pick if we could acquire him.
"I've known Tim (at the time Brown's assistant trainer) for years because I had horses with (ex-Kranji trainer) Cliff (Brown), and I always felt he would be a brilliant trainer in his own right when he had the chance.
He possesses qualities like honesty, patience, and loyalty that are crucial for a successful trainer, and he did such a great job with Golden Monkey.
With jockey Oscar Chavez aboard, Fitzsimmons did such a fantastic job that Golden Monkey broke his maiden status at his second start in Singapore before taking home the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint at his fourth start.
Oscar always told me we had a fine horse on our hands, but it wasn't until the 3YO Sprint victory that McLoughlan said, "Wow."
"He raced a good time, and Tim stated he just continues getting better, as evidenced by the ease with which he won the Classic.
Since Tim can't be faulted, he deserves a shot. To be honest, we were seeking for excuses not to run him against the older horses at weight-for-age level so soon.
The barrier (12) makes things harder, but he is far from a "one-trick pony," so Mark can ride him more quietly if necessary.
Although there is a large field and we are one of the top three or four chances, I believe Lim's Lightning is the horse to beat, especially after drawing gate one.
I wouldn't want to own any other horses in the event coming forward, either.