Daniel Meagher did not quite grasp the enormity of the moment when Kim Angel won the Singapore Gold Cup back in 2000.
The big Perth mare was trained by his Melbourne Cup-winning father John while the 18-year-old and elder brother Chris helped out at the Kranji stables. A much leaner Meagher rode work for the yard then.
The unbridled screams of delight and the high-fives were there at the winner’s circle, don’t be mistaken. But the young Meagher – the youngest of the three brothers (Paul is the third one) – was just caught up in the euphoria, probably looking forward to the big night ahead.
To land Singapore’s biggest race after the now-defunct Singapore Airlines International Cup – and to saddle a 1-2 with Le Rhone the runner-up for good measure - at only Meagher Snr’s first full season since relocating from Melbourne was not something he could wrap his head around then.
If anything, Meagher felt a slight twinge that the horse he rode every day, Le Rhone, was beaten into second place.
Seventeen years on, the Meagher name is in the running for another Gold Cup title with a last-minute “gatecrasher”, Secret Win, an unheralded five-year-old by Haradasun.
And this time it’s Daniel and not John – the latter is now retired after he pulled up stumps in 2011 to return to Brisbane to train with Chris and Daniel.
After the family brand name made a Singapore comeback last year when Meagher was granted a trainer’s licence, he will this Sunday watch with the same excitement as 17 years ago when Secret Win canters down to the starting gates for the running of the $1.35 million Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) – but with a greater sense of pride.
“I was young and unaware of the occasion when Kim Angel won. I actually rode Le Rhone, the second horse, while Kim Angel was always Andrew Kermond’s; they were both difficult to ride,” said Meagher as he rolled back the years.
“We were accustomed to such big races, and then Dad made it 1-2 in the Gold Cup at only his first full one year. To me, it was great but I can only fully appreciate it now.
“After I went to Dubai with Lim’s Classic and Lim’s Grand, it’s only then that I realised how hard it was hard to win these big races. Dad was good at letting me do my own thing, and Dubai was a turning point, I really enjoyed the training side of things.
“Then I went back to Singapore and had success with Recast in 2007. That’s when I wanted to concentrate on the training side and think about the future, especially after I met my future wife Sabrina in 2012 and settled down.
“I have to say I’ve had a great start to my training career. I’ve learned a lot in the first 12 months and I’m lucky to have staff who wants to share the same success.
“Now, just like Dad, at only my first full season, I have my first Singapore Gold Cup runner in Secret Win.
“To be honest, it wasn’t my intent to set him for the Gold Cup this year. He won the mile, but I knew he wasn’t a miler.
“I discussed with the stable and we know he is a dead-set 2200m plus horse. We decided to have a crack at the El Dorado Classic and he won with authority and got an automatic entry into the Gold Cup with only 50kgs on his back.
“It’s a great buzz to get a horse into the race, but at the same time, when I saw the people who were at the barrier draw, like Hideyuki Takaoka who won the Gold Cup three times, Pat Shaw, Stephen Gray, Mick Dittman (Kim Angel’s jockey and now a racing manager for the Lim’s Stable), I feel humbled to be among such an international stage when I’m only 34.”
Meagher may be a little starry-eyed but the handler, who has already trained 49 winners since his introduction in April 2016, has left no stone unturned as he bids to follow into the footsteps of his father, who will actually be at the races on Sunday.
“It’s great to see Dan with a runner in the Gold Cup. It’s a special race where you need to find the right horse who can settle where he is comfortable, and Kim Angel was just like that,” said Meagher senior, winner of 577 races at Kranji, including 29 at Group level (seven Group 1s).
Dittman, whose Lim’s Stable has no runner in the Singapore Gold Cup, was also in a nostalgic mood at the barrier trials on Thursday.
“She was a very good mare with a brilliant turn of foot. I remember I asked Johnny to put me on her as she had only 52kgs,” recalled the Australian many still call The Enforcer.
“In the running, she was in fourth-fifth spot and she just levelled up on the outside and she won rather easily. She was pretty special.”
If Meagher was feeling any added pressure from having his father around, he was certainly not showing it.
“Mum and Dad had already planned to come over to visit the family, but with Secret Win running in the Gold Cup, it’s worked out well,” said Meagher.
“It’s quite exciting to be in the Gold Cup with a horse who just won a Group 3 race, but two runs ago, won a Class 4 race.
“I’m lucky to have good people behind me, it’s not just about me, it’s people who want the same success and have structured that into the system. In the last three weeks since he won the El Dorado, we have kept to a system with the horse.
“He hasn’t had a holiday since he arrived, but at the same time, he doesn’t need a lot of work. He’s a natural stayer who goes well with nice fresh legs, and that’s a huge bonus.
“He will get a long way back, but is he good enough against the Infantry, Gilt Complex and Elite Excalibur, I don’t know. On ratings, he should be on 41kgs!
“I’m glad I also have a jockey who knows him well in my very good friend Benny Woodworth. I hope Benny can win that race.
“He knows he is a horse you just have to switch off and leave him alone in the early stages. If he can finish in the first six, I will be rapt."
Thanks to Michael Lee and Singapore Turf Club.