Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
Brazilian jockey Bernardo Pinheiro took the Malaysian racing scene by storm right from the word go, but that Midas touch has somehow yet to travel down South, even if he’s come up mightily close with two silvers in Group 1 events.
In four months spent across the Causeway, mainly in Kuala Lumpur, the young gun cut a swathe with an impressive haul of 33 winners in only 119 rides for a strike rate of 27.7% and a seventh place, netting the Malaysian Group 1 Selangor Gold Cup (1600m) on the now Cliff Brown-trained Truson on August 11 as well as three Listed races.
In two recent hit-and-run visits at two big-race meetings at Kranji, Pinheiro could, however, not cross the line first in seven rides, but the story could have been so diametrically different with a touch of luck.
Had Mr Clint not been checked at the top of the straight, and had Joseph Azzopardi not come up with an inspired ride on Sun Marshal, Pinheiro would probably have made a fairytale start to his first Singapore visit, a win in the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) back in July.
And if Makanani had not shown such bottomless reserve in the first Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series, the Group 1 Raffles Cup (1600m) two months later on September 22, Pinheiro could have gone one better in another Group 1 event.
A pimple not only separated Hideyuki Takaoka’s gutsy mare from the Lee Freedman-trained Mr Clint that day – but agonisingly, also Pinheiro from that much-coveted Singapore first win, never mind the Group 1 label.
If one wants to stretch the tales of “if’s and but’s” even further, Pinheiro’s Singapore strike rate would have been almost identical to the one in Malaysia.
But the 23-year-old has come too close to give up on trying now. The former two-time Brazilian champion apprentice jockey and winner of more than 450 races is hoping to be third time lucky with the same Mr Clint in this Sunday’s $800,000 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m).
Pinheiro, who wrapped up his successful first Malaysian stint last week and is now about to commence a third short Dubai contract, may still nurse a few regrets about the two close calls, but has moved on.
Dropping luck out of the equation, those two rides have been highly educational in sussing both Mr Clint and the Kranji racecourse out better.
“He is a very good horse and I think we had good runs in both the Derby and in the Raffles Cup, but that’s racing, sometimes, it’s just not the right time,” said Pinheiro whose other major prizes include the Brazil Triple Crown with filly Perfect Bullet, including the Group 1 Grande Premio Taca de Cristal at Porte Alegro, two Group 2 wins and six Group 3 wins, all in Brazil.
“I think we had a good run in the Raffles Cup. I was confident that day because I already knew him better, but I was just worried about the race being on the Short Course.
“However, I wasn’t surprised he finished so close and nearly won. I wouldn’t say that we were unlucky in both races, as to me it was just minor, we had every chance, I can’t complain.
“As Mr Freedman said to me later after the race, “we can’t change the past”. I know everyone gave their best to Mr Clint, including me, and we got good results.
“I’m still confident we can do well and win this Sunday.”
Should Mr Clint, who many tip will start favourite, falter, Pinheiro can still break his Singapore duck with five other bullets. Unlike his two previous visits, he has garnered a much healthier book of rides this time, as he is also engaged on Shahbaa, Super Dynasty, Centurion, Tesoro Privado and Made In Russia.
While the news that the whiz kid from Rio de Janeiro had left Malaysia caught many unaware, given his red-hot form and the huge following he had attracted, the reason for his decision spoke of a maturity beyond his years.
“I had good results there in a short time and I’m happy with this. I’m always trying to improve myself and it was a good learning curve,” said Pinheiro who has also ridden in Uruguay and Bahrain.
“But I think my mission there is done for now. I returned to Dubai where I had good results last season even as a freelance jockey, where it’s a hard place to have opportunities and grow without support.
“So, I believe I can keep it up. The new Dubai season will start on October 24.”
Pinheiro rode with success in the United Arab Emirates at two previous seasons in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 bringing up 15 winners, including two at Listed level at Meydan. He is retained by trainer John Hyde and rides mainly for the powerful Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Racing