Champion jockey Vlad Duric revealed he has “achieved the goals” he set out for himself, but assured he would pull out all the stops in the final showdown between him and his challenger Ruan Maia in Sunday’s last race meeting of the season.
The Australian has again shown the way this year, but the Brazilian has proven to be a most serious adversary at his first full-season in Singapore, raking in winners by the spades, including that famous seven-timer on August 23, and two five-timers on September 12 and last Saturday.
Maia is now only four winners behind Duric (61 vs 65 winners).
In contrast, the three-time Singapore champion rider endured a frustrating day.
He bagged one win on Special Ops, but Prime Time bled after the race, Quarter Back was scratched at the gates, and Centenary Diamond was disappointing.
Pennywise, his ride in the Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes, ran eighth while he was replaced by Benny Woodworth on Shepherd’s Hymn (3rd) as he could not make the weight.
And to top it all off, he copped a suspension for careless riding on Special Ops.
But as he has unsurprisingly deferred the ban to the first two meetings in 2021, he will be in for the final fight this Sunday.
“I try my best in every race, but I have no control over horses that bleed or pull up unwell, and luck plays a part as well,” said the 43-year-old ace.
“On the other hand, Maia got the rides and the luck last week.
“The premiership is not the be-all and end-all for me. My aim was to win the feature races, and by winning four out of seven Group 1 races this year, I have achieved what I’ve set out to do.
“The title is the icing on the cake, and it would be great to win it for the fourth (consecutive) time.”
Duric has partnered Kranji superstar Inferno to victory in the Lion City Cup and Singapore Guineas, and Top Knight in the Singapore Derby and Queen Elizabeth II Cup, while Maia has won two Group 1s; the Kranji Mile and Raffles Cup aboard Aramaayo.
The stage is set for another mouth-watering clash between the two leading hoops on Sunday. Duric is booked on eight runners (Bear Witness, Zahau, Easy Does It, Tony’s Love, Sun Conqueror, Lonhro Gold, On Line and Buuraq) and Maia has nine (Beyond Compared, Rise Of Empire, Sun Council, Tiger Force, Knight Love, Fame Star, Ace Harbour, Vittoria Perfetta and Lim’s Spin).
Duric may not have the best of rides this time, but On Line and Easy Does It could be the better-fancied ones among them. The Michael Clements-trained On Line is coming back in distance in the $70,000 Kranji Stakes C race over 1600m while the Stephen Gray-trained Easy Does It is down in grade in the $50,000 Class 4 Division 1 race over 1400m.
“I have been riding On Line forward in his (past two) races. Michael and I have discussed and we thought we should ride him further back, that a change of tactic could give him the run in the race,” said Duric.
“It’s the first time I’m riding Easy Does It in the races. He needs to turn his form around, but now that he’s a class dropper, I think that is a great help to him.”
Maia may be in hot pursuit, but it is easier said than done. For him to turn the tables on Duric with another five-timer for the second consecutive week while his rival fires blanks looks a tall order, but that was what we said last week.
Duric would prefer to err on the side of caution, though.
He did his homework and it was evident in the way he rattled Maia’s rides off his tongue, he was clearly aware of his opponent’s chances, as the saying from the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu goes: “to know thyself and the enemy is the way to victory”.
“I looked through the cards and his book of rides seem better than mine this week,” said Duric.
“There’s Lim’s Spin who ran second at his last start, Ace Harbour who looks like he is in a perfect race though the field is weak, and then Tiger Force, who is a course record holder (1600m Polytrack).
“Maia started later, third week into January, but he is going good, whereas I’ve had quite a few suspensions and injuries myself.
“If he has the luck again and finishes on top of me, then all credit to him.
“But, I will not go down without a fight this Sunday.”
– Singapore Turf Club