Leading Singapore trainer Thwaites heads for Macau

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 November, 2003, 12:00am

Malcolm Thwaites, six times champion trainer in Malaysia and Singapore, has applied for a licence to train in Macau. On the same day he announced his retirement from the Singapore scene, Thwaites and stable manager Leigh MacKenzie flew to Macau for an interview with Macau Jockey Club director of racing, Ian Paterson.

Last night Paterson would neither confirm nor deny Thwaites' attendance at Jockey Club headquarters at the Taipa course yesterday afternoon. 'It has never been the policy of the Macau Jockey Club to announce applications for licences or rejections of applications for licences,' Paterson said. But a Macau trainer, who did not want to be named, confirmed Thwaites and MacKenzie had a 90-minute audience with the director.

Thwaites is one of the greatest trainers in the history of racing in south-east Asia. In Singapore-Malaysia, the only ones who can stand comparison are Ivan Allan (seven premierships there and subsequently three in Hong Kong) and the now-retired Teh Choon Beng (nine titles). Only last Sunday, Thwaites won the S$1.5 million Singapore Gold Cup for the sixth time with New Zealand mare Zirna, making him the second most successful trainer in the history of the race, behind Allan's record tally of nine.

On Wednesday, Singapore Turf Club stewards completed an inquiry into alleged treatment of horses with a herbal remedy at Thwaites stable, done without the supervision of the STC's veterinary department.

Stewards singled out three particular horses, allegedly treated during 2001 and 2002, and charged Thwaites, along with assistant trainer Jerome Goh and MacKenzie. The charges were sustained, and Thwaites was fined S$30,000, MacKenzie S$18,000 and Goh S$6,000.

Normal operating procedures in cases like this would see Macau authorities checking with their Singapore counterparts before providing a full report to the licensing committee. Thwaites was a front-runner to become the new expatriate trainer in Hong Kong this season - a position ultimately given to David Ferraris - but was overlooked by the HKJC for being 'too old' at 58.

However, Thwaites is a tall, slim, fit man and should be capable of successfully running a Macau operation in for many years to come.

One of the benefits of Thwaites coming to Macau will be that he will be bringing a new ownership base with him. A number of his clients, including the Australian Racing Institute, will be sending Singapore horses to Macau. And the Macau Jockey Club, under the chairmanship of casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun, has always taken a very pragmatic, businesslike approach to the Macau racing product and the corresponding licensing decisions.

Speaking at Kranji on Wednesday morning and confirming his pending departure from the Singapore scene at the end of the month, Thwaites singled out one administrator for the highest praise.

'I owe my training career to one man and that is Perak Turf Club chairman Tan Sri V Jeyaratnam, who offered me stables as soon as I was granted a MRA licence,' Thwaites said. 'He was very concerned for me and that inspired me to work hard to become what I am today. I have dedicated my sixth and last Singapore Gold Cup to Tan Sri.'