By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf CLub
The musical chairs of jockeys for Group stalwart Countofmontecristo is showing no signs of stopping any time soon.
Apprentice jockey Mohammad Nizar is the latest to land in the hot seat. 13 have tried to be part of the furniture in 26 starts (21 of them run at elite level), but that saddle had proven a little too hot to handle.
Only four riders have succeeded where 10 have failed – Mohd Zaki, Glen Boss (five times), Alan Munro and Daniel Moor.
The latter was the one who finally broke the jinx – with the list of musical chairs dropouts even including A-listers in their midst, like Manoel Nunes, Vlad Duric, Michael Rodd – in the Group 2 Merlion Trophy (1200m) on August 25.
The deliverance for the Echoes Of Heaven six-year-old finally occurred after a long run of outs (16 starts), albeit with many placings in almost two years, but it didn’t stop the axe from falling again.
Moor turned out to be another transit passenger who gave way to another, Noh Senari – No 13, a number who didn’t bring the top local hoop any better luck either – but somehow, Moor was handed a second ticket in the Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) at Countofmontecristo’s last start on November 10.
Despite an eye-catching third to Mr Clint (Craig Williams), owner Joe Singh has opened his phonebook again. He has now locked his radar on Nizar, 34, with the four-kilo admittedly the main draw, but with eight winners under his belt in a relatively short career, Saimee Jumaat’s mature-age apprentice jockey does have some appeal in terms of ability as well.
And a cool head, too.
“No pressure at all. I can only try my best on Mr Singh’s horse,” said Nizar after he got a first taste of his plum ride at the barrier trials (a quiet third to Tesoro Privado) on Thursday.
“I’ve ridden a few times for Mr Singh, but this is by far his best horse. He’s a pretty straightforward horse to ride, I just need some luck in the running.”
Countofmontecristo is being aimed at the Class 1 race over 1200m on turf on January 12. While he has proven to have stamina in recent runs, it’s a return to a distance he has actually captured at four of his six wins.
“Nizar is a good rider and claims four. He had a first feel of Count this morning,” said trainer Michael Clements.
“He’s a straightforward horse and he didn’t need to do more than what he did, just to keep him ticking over. He runs next week in the Class 1 race and then it’s on to the Chairman’s Trophy through to the Kranji Mile.”
The Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy and International Group 3 Kranji Mile are both run over the mile and will be held on February 15 and May 23 respectively.