The Ipoh-born rider, who is indentured to trainer Steven Burridge, has slowly been ensconcing himself back into the apprentice riding ranks since his return from a three-month stint in Tasmania in April. He finished fourth on 16 winners at his rookie season last year.
Kok did not fly the lids at his 2019 comeback, though, but the winners have not taken long to come his way. Despite the big start he gave the others, his haul now reads six wins from 69 rides, nine wins behind current leader Wong Chin Chuen.
Friday’s brace bore Kok’s evident maturity as a rider and enhanced ability to read a race which belied his young age, but which had always been there from Day 1 and has gone to another level after the Tassie polish.
Both victories were worked out by settling on the speed, even if the tactics differed slightly.
On the Tan Kah Soon-trained Roan Ranger ($26) in the $30,000 Class 5 Division 2 race over 1400m, Kok just allowed the Irish-bred to coast off the girth of Secondwave (Koh Teck Huat) before winning the race off an early move around the weakening leader 400m out.
Roan Ranger, who was at his fifth win, but his first since Tan took over him from ex-trainer Sonny Yeoh, clocked 1mim 24.08secs for the 1400m on the Short Course.
From a wide barrier in the next race, the $70,000 Class 3 Division 1 race over 1200m on the Polytrack, the Lee Freedman-trained Augustano ($27) hotfooted it early as he went vying for the lead, but from a better draw, Wonderful Knight (Yusoff Fadzli) had come in with a similar statement of intent.
Loath to get into a cutthroat speed battle that could slash his winning chances by at least half, Kok smartly eased Augustano off a little at the 900m. Saving his mount’s petrol while keeping Wonderful Knight in his sights, Kok went pedal to the metal at the top of the straight.
They, however, looked toast when the fresh legs on the scene, favourite Revolution (Vlad Duric), came with a wet sail on the outside at the 300m.
But Augustano, who was sporting blinkers again, somehow found a second wind when collared while Revolution unexpectedly peaked on his run.
Inside the last 100 yards, the duo locked horns for one of those slugfests which could swing either way, but Augustano’s toughness and Kok’s guile won the race. A short head split the duelling pair on the line with Arc Triumph (John Powell) third another two lengths away. The winning time was 1min 10.57secs for the 1200m on the Polytrack.
“It’s nice to get two winners tonight,” said Kok.
“Augustano is a really lovely horse. I was worried the pace would be too quick.
“But he still showed a nice turn of foot and won a nice race.”
Kok now boasts a 100% strike rate with the Hard Spun four-year-old. At their one and only previous association in a Kranji Stakes C race over 1200m in November, they won in almost identical fashion with Miss Dusty threatening to race past, but coming up short by three-quarter length.
“I feel he’s a fighter. Last time, when he felt Miss Dusty coming on his outside, he put up a similar fight,” said Kok.
Freedman, who is currently in Newmarket, UK, to attend good friend Mark McStay’s wedding, has now prepared Augustano to six wins and five placings from 20 starts for prizemoney in excess of $330,000 for Thai outfit King Power Stable.