Big Boss catches JP by surprise

My Big Boss (Juan Paul van der Merwe) stages a mini upset in the last race.
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By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

Jockey Juan Paul van der Merwe was not sure what to expect at his second ride on My Big Boss on Friday night, but it turned out to be the lifesaver.

At his first pairing with the Smart Missile four-year-old in a Class 4 race over 1200m a fortnight ago, he went in thinking he was onto a good one.

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The South African jockey jumped off very much deflated after they could only run seventh to smokie Leading Cellist, albeit just over one length astern.

Trainer Lee Freedman still kept van der Merwe on at his next start, which came in the last event on the eight-race programme on Friday night, the $50,000 Class 4 race over 1100m on Polytrack, but the jockey’s confidence level had plummeted to rock bottom this time around.

Not even barrier one could restore a bit of a positive spin. It would be a drab end to a meeting that saw his previous six rides finish among the also-rans, all except for Shangani (third).

1min 5.28secs later, van der Merwe was returning to scales muttering something like horses turn jockeys stupid at times, but still wearing the wide grin of a jockey who was not going home empty-handed, all the more so with wife Abigail on hand to greet him at the winner’s stall.

Buried away on the rails from the start, My Big Boss ($65) enjoyed a trouble-free run in transit as Simba (John Sundradas) and Country Boss (Marc Lerner) injected an abundance of speed at the head of affairs in the first half of the race.

Homeward bound, van der Merwe decided that sweating on a run on the inside was not an option. He went searching for daylight on the outside, and it turned out to be an inspired decision.

The moment My Big Boss found clear galloping room, he savaged the line to go and beat Lim’s Knight (Tengku Rehaizat) by three-quarter length for his first win in 467 days (since his only win in Restricted Maiden company on October 7, 2018 when ridden by Olivier Placais). Moongate Star (Benny Woodworth) closed in late to take third place another two lengths away.

“I promise you, these horses make you feel stupid at times!” said van der Merwe.

“I was super confident the last time, even though I never knew the horse. They told me a lot more about him in the parade ring, but he was never a threat.

“That’s why I was not confident at all this time. But he ran a strong race and won like a smart horse.”

Unlike his first season in 2019, van der Merwe is enjoying his sophomore year in Singapore better, having already bagged three winners compared to last year when he had to wait until June to hit the same score.

My Big Boss may not win out of turn, but that second win, coupled with his handy record of six placings from 18 starts have helped boost his earnings to just a tick below the $150,000 mark for Thai owners King Power Stable.