No manual needed for rider-friendly Countofmontecristo

Mohammad Nizar rides Countofmontecristo in a barrier trial on January 2.

By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

Countofmontecristo ticks all the right boxes for another successful outing this Saturday – even if he is getting paired up with, yes, another rider.

An impressive last-start winner with French jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin up in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) for his fifth Group success when second-up from a 2 ½-month spell, Mr Consistency is this time stepping out to 1800m in the $100,000 Kranji Stakes A (1800m) where he will meet five of the Chairman’s Trophy beaten brigade, but while giving weight all round this time.

Beuzelin may boast a perfect one-from-one record on Countofmontecristo, but largely because of the new weight dynamics, will have to “take French leave” to step aside for a new pilot – the 16th to jump on in 28 starts: Apprentice jockey Mohammad Nizar, who on Monday was officially transferred from Saimee Jumaat to James Peters.

A long-time coffee shop talk favourite among racing fans, Countofmontecristo’s musical chairs of jockeys barely raises an eyebrow these days. Michael Clements’ assistant-trainer Michael White for one shrugs it off as trite overexposure in his usual deadpan tongue-in-cheek style.

“To be honest, anybody can ride this horse, both tactically – and physically,” said White.

“(Owner) Joe (Singh) suggested Nizar for the three-kilo claim and we were not against the idea. He’s ridden for the owner before and won, like Gingerella.

“Nizar was actually meant to ride Countofmontecristo before, but with the big weight (59.5kgs) this Saturday, he finally gets his chance. The three-kilo claim makes him pretty well in at the weights.”

And White goes on to expound on other more salient factors that put the Echoes Of Heaven six-year-old in good stead for win No 10.

“We’ve found a suitable race for him. It’s a 1800m race which is more his caper now that he’s an older horse,” he said.

“When he was younger, we tapped on his early speed, but he loves this sort of longer distance now. It gets tricky after that, we don’t really have a programme leading up to the Kranji Mile or the bigger races at the end of the year (Singapore Triple Crown series).

“He ran third in the Gold Cup last year, he obviously sees out the trip (2000m), but it may be hard at the handicap.

“In the meantime, we’ll just have to go back to the magic mystery box and come up with something.”

The Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) has this year been elevated to International Group 3 status and will be run on May 23. The Singapore Triple Crown series is made up of the Group 1 Raffles Cup (1600m) on September 19, the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m) on October 17 and the Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) on November 7.

Author: iRace