By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
When Countofmontecristo changed stables from Michael Clements to Mark Walker after the Group 1 Kranji Mile, many assumed Clements’ No 1 jockey Louis-Philippe Beuzelin would by ricochet lose his job as well.
After all, this is the horse whose nickname could’ve been “revolving doors”. 16 jockeys have come and gone, with Glen Boss the winningest on five, and Beuzelin not doing too badly on two wins from three rides.
The French jockey was, however, the first to pan his own ride in the aftermath of the Kranji Mile where they were caught in no man’s land throughout, hit the front too early, eventually fizzling out to run third to Aramaayo.
With the buck almost always stopping with the jockey, many half-expected the axe would fall, more so when owner Joe Singh is not unknown for being a tough marker.
But it turned out the Barbadian-raised and English-trained (Sir Michael Stoute school no less) rider was never jocked off, even if the star miler’s first race for Walker had apprentice jockey Hakim Kamaruddin in the irons.
Beuzelin will indeed be back aboard when the seven-year-old son of Echoes Of Heaven returns for this Saturday’s $400,000 Group 1 Raffles Cup (1600m). It will be Countofmontecristo’s fourth bid in the first Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series after finishing twice fourth (2017 and 2018) and out of the placings last year.
It emerged that Beuzelin had never been collateral damage from the Clements-Singh split.
“The Friday after the Kranji Mile, Mr Giovanni (Singh) told me he was moving Countofmontecristo to Mark Walker, but I would still continue to ride him,” said Beuzelin.
“At his last start, it was already agreed that an apprentice jockey would ride because of the 59kgs. It was a logical decision to get the three-kilo claim.
“I’m very grateful to Mr Giovanni and thankful for his professionalism as I really wanted to carry on riding his horse.
“This horse has become very special to me. We’ve had very good results together, including winning the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m on February 15), and in the Class 1 race (July 11), it was a hard-fought win.
“I have also learned a lot about the horse, not only after the Kranji Mile, but as a whole, and that’s a huge asset.
“I know his strengths, but also his Achilles heel. I have a much better understanding of him and I will give him my 100% in the Raffles Cup.”
Beuzelin gave the thumbs-up after hopping back on the 10-time winner (half of which at Group level but none at Group 1 level yet) and $2 million stakes earner for a steady grass gallop on Tuesday, the first time they had teamed up since the Kranji Mile.
“The horse is in very good form. He did a nice 1000m workout, galloping alongside (stable companion) Beau Geste all the way to the line,” he said.
“It was an in-depth maintenance gallop as he hasn’t raced for almost a month (since September 12). I didn’t want to ask him to do too much or too little, just the happy medium.
“It will just help bring on his fitness until raceday. Things went well, 100%.”
With the benefit of hindsight from the lessons learned in the Kranji Mile, riding the former speedster negative would seem to have evolved into the new modus operandi, but a prudent Beuzelin said nothing has been set in stone.
Maybe a sense of complacency set in after the two wins, and we all know what happened in the Kranji Mile. Once bitten twice shy, a more forearmed Beuzelin won’t let anything fall through the cracks this time.
“It will depend on his draw and also on the owner,” said Beuzelin.
“We’ll see what comes out of the draw and we will then work out a plan.”