By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
After a first couple of weeks finding his way around the office, South African jockey Ryan Munger hit the target for the first time in Singapore with Pindus in the $50,000 Class 4 Division 2 race over 1000m on Friday night.
The Durban-born 24-year-old began his local stint on January 26, failing to salute from 17 rides in three meetings, but did come quite close with two minor placings and seven fourths.
Unfortunately, the promising start was spoiled by a careless riding three-day suspension (on Broadway Success) he will serve after this Sunday’s meeting, but at least, the 600-odd race winner won’t have to wait it out before getting the monkey off his back.
The conditions for an ice-breaker didn’t actually look all that auspicious with Pindus posted out wide from his awkward alley, but the lightweight jockey had the Ricardo Le Grange-trained Exceed And Excel four-year-old travelling on the bridle throughout before clicking him up for the supreme effort at the top of the straight.
Taking the widest path to the line, Pindus finished right over the top of his rivals in the last bounds to defeat favourite Man Of Mystery (Simon Kok Wei Hoong) by a neck. Sun Step (Ruan Maia) ran third another half-length away.
The winning time was 59.96secs for the 1000m on the Polytrack.
With wife Kelsey on hand to lead him in, a delighted Munger could barely contain his joy at the winner’s circle.
“The last few days, I’ve run in the money at a strike rate of around 50%. I was wondering when one of them would break the ice for me,” said Munger.
“This horse had good form and was in a good place. I actually made him one of my better chances to get my first win, but he was also jumping from a tricky barrier.
“When he saw daylight at the top of the straight, he attacked the line very well. He dug down deep and won a nice race.
“Big thanks to Ricardo, I work for him in the morning and he helps me out a lot. We work as a team, and the good results are showing.
“Singapore is a different set-up from back home, but it’s all very efficient and clean. I’m in a very good space now.”
Le Grange was glad he could finally share the spoils with a jockey he had been longing to have on the team. The South African trainer had pledged support to Munger from the day he was granted a one-year licence in November, but the work permit took an unusually long time to get approved – almost two months.
“I can say a lot about this kid. He has a great work ethic and he ticks all the boxes,” said Le Grange.
“He was stiff on California last week (beaten a nose), and I’m glad he won tonight. He was never affiliated to a big stable in South Africa, didn’t have a chance to ride top horses, but that win will give him the confidence now, and I’m sure all the guys will grab him now.
“As for Pindus, he was a bit of a conundrum when he came. People kept bagging him for being a non-trier, but I think we got into his head, and he scored another good win tonight.
“I’m really happy for the team, Paolo and Rudy Mendoza.”
Despite the early stigma on Pindus, he has now silenced his critics with three wins and two placings from seven starts for prizemoney that has hit around the $80,000 mark for Paolo De Villa Mendoza.