Maia comes full Circuit at ‘first’ Kranji ride

Ironside hands jockey Ruan Maia his first win as a long-term jockey in Singapore.
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By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

It felt almost like déjà vu for Brazilian jockey Ruan Maia after he began his new Singapore stint as a long-term licensed jockey with victory at his very first ride on Friday night.

Two years ago, the then relative unknown, who had just begun plying his trade in Macau, came to Kranji for only one mission aboard the Lee Freedman-trained Circuit Land in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) and duly made a fairytale start with a memorable win.

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Maia has since gone on to rule the roost in Macau with two premiership titles, but had somehow never won another race at Kranji despite regular short-term forays since that dream debut.

The San Paulo native is back with a longer-term licence this time – 12 months – and after frustratingly sitting out the first four Kranji meetings while waiting for his work permit to come through, he finally made his local debut as a full-fledged resident jockey on Friday.

Booked for only one ride aboard Ironside for Donna Logan in the $70,000 Class 3 race (1200m), Maia took that one solitary chance with both hands by producing a textbook ride on the outsider.

As his other six rivals went wide around the home turn, the 550-odd race winner picked his way on his lonesome on the inner side of the track – and to winning effect.

Ironside, who was resuming after a protracted six-month absence, pinged along the rails to spring a $81 upset on the better-fancied Pax Animi (Patrick Moloney), who had plotted the widest path down the home straight.

Ironside defeated Pax Animi by one length with Baffert (Vlad Duric) third another three parts of a length away, while top pick No Fun No Gain (Simon Kok Wei Hoong) finished a disappointing fifth. The winning time was 1min 9.98secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.

No doubt that win was not in the same league as his Group 2 heroics in 2018, but from his exuberant celebration on his return to scales – and with wife Erica on hand this time, for that extra source of joy – it will definitely be bottled up as a milestone by the likeable jockey.

“I’m so happy to have the opportunity to ride here. I’m grateful to the Singapore Turf Club for giving me the chance to come here for one year,” he said.

“Big thanks to Donna Logan for that first ride and it’s now my first winner (as a long-term licensee). I’ll just have to keep working hard.

“It was my first ride and it was my only ride, so I wasn’t sure, but I checked his records and I saw he was not a bad horse.

“I was only worried he was coming back after such a long break. From the good barrier (two), we had a perfect run on the rails, but he pulled a bit as he has a soft mouth.

“Once he found plenty of room along the rails, he came back for me and in the straight, he just kept hitting the line very well.”

That first winning partnership is likely to call for more such associations between Maia and Logan, who was unstinting in her glowing appraisal of the Latino jockey’s class at the winner’s circle.

“Ruan rode this horse an absolute treat. Full credit to him,” said the Kiwi trainer.

“This horse is very good, but he had bad luck. He was meant to be our Derby horse, but things didn’t pan out as expected.

“He had a hairline fracture to his fetlock and we had to put him away. He recovered, but as is the case with such horses, I decided not to trial him before his comeback race.

“He was a little fat, but he still won a nice race first-up.”

A one-time winner in New Zealand, Ironside has now taken his local record to three wins and two placings from 10 starts for prizemoney around the $135,000 mark for his owner Lars Pearson.