Champion jockey Vlad Duric will become the 11th jockey to jump on Countofmontecristo when he takes the reins in the second Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series, the S$500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m) next Sunday.
While Glen Boss remains the 2017 Singapore champion three-year-old’s most prolific partner, having ridden him to five of his seven wins, no fewer than nine other jockeys have gone through the musical saddles for a variety of reasons – only one ride for all bar one.
Other than Boss, only Mohd Zaki (on debut) and Alan Munro (last win) have won on the Joe Giovanni-owned son of Echoes Of Heaven.
Unsuccessful partners – and they include some heavy hitters - are Manoel Nunes, Michael Rodd (two rides), William Pike, Alysha Collett, Ryan Curatolo, Troy See, and the latest, Brazilian-born Irish jockey Franco Da Silva specially flown in from Korea for the steering job in the first Leg, the Raffles Cup (1600m) on September 23.
After coming across from a wide gate, Countofmontecristo was able to show the way before pinching an early break at the 700m, looked home and hosed halfway up the straight, only to be swamped late to finish a close fourth to Debt Collector.
Duric will now try and succeed where so many have failed, but he himself got the gig by default. Originally duty-bound to partner Elite Invincible throughout the Triple Crown, Duric became available after the latter – who had already missed the Raffles Cup due to a fever - will skip the QEII Cup to head straight to the Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) on November 11.
The Australian jockey could not have been happier with Countofmontecristo’s barrier trial on Thursday. It was not his first time riding him as he was also aboard at his pre-Raffles Cup barrier trial.
Taking the drop on runaway leader Faaltless (Matthew Kellady), Countofmontecristo ambled along comfortably throughout and looked set to take second place until Debt Collector (Michael Rodd) rushed home late to touch him out by a nose.
“He had blinkers on last time, but not this morning. He was meant to fly solo, but he will wear them in the QEII Cup,” said Duric.
“He had a nice trial behind the leader (Faaltless) and I just gave him a squeeze up the straight.
“It was a really nice gallop and I was really rapt with his action. The step-up to the 1800m is a question mark, but the blinkers will improve him.
“Debt Collector is the class horse and will be hard to beat, but my horse will be in with a chance.”
Michael Clements’ assistant-trainer Michael White was also glad with what he saw on Thursday morning - which was not quite the case in the Raffles Cup three weeks ago.
“The horse was in the form of his life, we’ve never had him in better form, but he was woefully rated in front,” said White.
“The stable is excited about the horse’s prospect next week given Vlad can’t possibly ride him any worse.” -STC