Central Districts jockey Madan Singh is delighted to be back on New Zealand shores after a holiday which nearly cost him his career. The 28-year-old returned to his native India for his annual visit home in late February last year and found himself stranded as a result of border closures due to COVID-19, as the global pandemic took flight.
Singh is currently in quarantine in Auckland and can’t wait to return to Fraser Auret’s Marton stable where he will be reunited with friends, in addition to his brother Mahipal. “For the first four or five months I couldn’t do anything. But I can’t thank my boss Fraser enough and also Maree Marshall. They kept assisting me with the paperwork and had references from New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing,” Singh said.
“The process was delayed when Auckland went into a second lockdown and one of the most challenging things was the limited space in quarantine in New Zealand. My paperwork to return was approved a couple of months ago, but getting a flight and a quarantine space took a bit longer and I got back on January 2. It is really exciting to be back. It’s been a long time.”
Singh said one of the positives was being able to spend a lengthier period with his family, who are based in a small village outside of the northwest city of Jodhpur. “I rode in Bangalore for four years before coming to New Zealand and have been with Fraser for seven years, so I hadn’t really had a chance to go back to my village for more than a couple of days,” Singh said. “It was quite safe in my village, with minimal cases of the virus.”
Singh was keen to keep his eye in and ride in India while he waited for his passage back to New Zealand, but the virus brought racing to a halt for more than seven months before resuming in November.
“I had some offers to ride in Hyderabad for some good contacts, and also in Mysore, but horse racing shut down,” Singh said. “My focus was very much on getting back to New Zealand and over the past few months I have been running every morning to make sure I keep my fitness.
“I have been lucky enough to quarantine at the Pullman Hotel, but the meals are very good, so it will take me a little bit of time to get back to full fitness. I haven’t ridden for 10 months.”
Singh, who was the leading Central Districts apprentice in 2018-19, and has 76 career victories to his name, has kept abreast of happenings in New Zealand racing and was grateful to his many friends in the industry who had kept in touch throughout.
“I watched all of the races on replay on my phone so I know what is going on and I am definitely looking forward to getting back riding,” he said. “I am quite lucky to be back and look forward to be riding towards the end of the month.
“I missed the racing and had plenty of text messages from jockeys. New Zealand is my second home and the people are so nice.”