By Jon Lees
Singapore: Top trainer Cliff Brown has become the latest handler to announce he is leaving Singapore to return to Australia, where he will be reunited with top sprinter Inferno.
In another blow to the sport in Singapore, Brown has followed Lee Freedman in deciding to end his stay after 12 years training in Kranji, citing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic as a key factor.
“COVID-19 has crushed the [Singapore Turf] Club, just like it has damaged a lot of other racing jurisdictions around the world,” said Brown, 51. “No-one is immune to its devastating effects.
“When I came to Singapore, my business model was to win as many races as possible. With the many changes we’ve seen in the last year, many things have been taken away as a result – my business model won’t work any more.
“The number of races has dropped, we can’t get a run for our horses. That has greatly affected our income and our bottom line.”
Brown said that because of travel restrictions and border closures he had not seen his two eldest children, both at university in Australia, for a year.
He also wants to continue to train Inferno, the winner of eight of his nine starts including two G1s in Singapore, who was due to tackle the Hong Kong Sprint in December only to be scratched after being found to be lame.
Inferno is in quarantine ahead of travelling to Australia and will return to Brown’s care once he has established a new base.
“Inferno going back is a big thing,” said Brown. “Having him here now wouldn’t make any sense and that’s why we decided to send him to Australia.
“There’s no guarantee that he’ll be good enough in Australia, he may not be top level, but I’d really like to see him there, and be part of that new journey.”
Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Lee Freedman announced last December he would be returning home in March, when Brown will also depart once he has wound up his business.
Brown trained 13 G1 and G2 winners in Australia including the 1997 Rosehill Guineas, 2002 Adelaide Cup and the South Australia Derby in 1996, 1997 and 2000 from stables in Victoria before he moved to Singapore.
He has regularly finished in the top five trainers, sending out 566 winners, 34 at Group level, including 13 G1s. His most successful horse was the 2016 Singapore Horse of the Year Debt Collector, who won five times at G1.
“I’m leaving around mid-March, and will also serve my two-week quarantine,” he added. “If all goes well, I’m hoping to start training in May, during which time Inferno would have already had a few weeks of work.”
• Visit the Singapore Turf Club website