Right now, the participants have no other choice but to take it a day at a time, one race meeting at a time, knowing the sword of Damocles hangs over their heads.

Three weeks have galloped by since the Singapore horse racing industry was rocked by the news that the Government was reclaiming the 120ha of land where the Kranji racecourse sits, and the countdown to its closure on Oct 5, 2024, has already begun.

The ripple effect within the industry has not subsided, though. The wounds are still raw and no real new ground has been broken since the announcement on June 5.

Two meetings were arranged to address the two main issues at the heart of the crisis: Trainers’ stable staff who are not covered by the assistance scheme that Singapore Turf Club’s (STC) 350 staff will enjoy upon retrenchment, and animal welfare of the more than 700 horses.

The first one between STC’s president and chief executive Irene Lim and the 22 trainers under the Association of Racehorse Trainers Singapore (Arts) on June 9 was cut short by a walkout of more than three-quarters of the group.

Tempers boiled over and no headway was made, other than Ms Lim asking for the association to submit a list of concerns around the closure.

The list was submitted last Friday and STC will respond this week.

STC also promised that it would address any low-hanging fruits as soon as possible, for example, an increase in prize money and racing through the traditional December break.

The second meeting was again convened by Arts, but with a representative group of the roughly 500 owners in Singapore on June 14.

Opinions and objectives were split in their exit strategies – some (mostly trainers) were resigned to their fate but wanted compensation, others (mostly owners) wanted an extension of time to survive for as long as there is a sliver of hope.

The main aim was for the two groups to come together as one to facilitate any representations with either STC or the Government.

Arts president and trainer Michael Clements and a few owners put up a united front when they spoke to the media present. The main message was that the association empathised with the owners’ needs and is supportive of their push for more time.

“If you put yourself in the shoes of a racehorse owner in Singapore, I’d want a longer timeline for my horse to race,” said Mr Clements.

“So, I think it’s very fair from the owners that they would like an extension. Of course, we would 100 per cent be aligned with that, we will be working with the owners to put forward that representation.

“It’s a vast group of owners with different opinions, but we will try to have only one voice.

“However, immediately, we need to ensure racing continues and is able to be sustainable going forward while at the same time working with the owners and their requests for an extension.”

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of National Development said that the plan remains for STC to close its facility by March 2027 and return the land to the Government for redevelopment.

“The Government is committed to work with STC and stakeholders during the transition period for a smooth transition and closure of STC.”

Other trainers expressed their grave concerns when looking at the flip side of the coin. To them, it may be a real case of “no horse run”.

“If the stable staff leave – and some have already got job offers in Malaysia – or when we are trainers no more, who will look after the horses?” asked Singaporean trainer Jason Lim.

“The club is not incentivised to stay to look after the horses when the people are gone.

“We won’t have horses to run either. Owners won’t wait till then to export horses, which is another big problem in itself.

“Horses are not cars that you can just switch off and send to a scrapyard.”

he complexities of horse shipment reside in the veterinary protocols of different countries.

Australia can take up to eight horses a month. If, say, 300 horses take that route, it will take three years to complete.

In Malaysia, the Selangor Turf Club will build 200 new stables to accommodate any horses relocating from Singapore.

The difference in freight costs must also be factored in. Malaysia charges $500 a horse for the float transport (truck or trailer), while the cost of air freight of one horse to Australia is about $20,000.

“It will take years to transport them. Horses are very fragile,” added Mr Lim.

“We have to find a home for them, find shavings, air-con. When they get stressed, they get colic and go crazy, they can die.”

Further lobbies are afoot, but nothing concrete has come out of it.

Right now, the participants have no other choice but to take it a day at a time, one race meeting at a time, knowing the sword of Damocles hangs over their heads.

When New Zealand-trained Singaporean jockey Zyrul Nor Azman won two races on June 11, a rare feat for him, the mood in the camp remained sombre. It was the first meeting since news of the closure.

“This should be a happy day, but I’m feeling neutral,” said the father of two. “I still appreciate that I got a win, two, (at that) – but I’m not hungry any more.”

As Kranji’s only female jockey, Ms Jerlyn Seow was one of the rare racing personalities to have created a buzz in the media a few years ago.

But all the hype about breaking the glass ceiling in a male-dominated sport will not matter any more.

“I’ve told a newspaper I’m going to be a gamer, a barista to another one. But it’s because I really don’t know, and people keep asking me,” said the 29-year-old.

“I’m 50-50 about moving overseas to continue riding. I’m still young, so I can still get a new career.

“But it’s worrying for so many people who have been here since the Bukit Timah days and are of an older demographic. Horses are all they know.

“I still hope that racing will stay.”

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