n two meetings, Singapore champion jockey Vlad Duric has seen his 19-win lead nosedive to 10 only.
The Australian ace was suspended for careless riding at the first, the Kranji Mile meeting, and came back empty-handed at the second, which was last Sunday, but the real reason for the fast-closing gap lay elsewhere.
Ruan Maia is the man who chomped into the big margin. He racked up a bumper crop of nine winners at those two meetings Duric stayed put, including a seven-timer on Sunday.
Given the shortened calendar and frequency of meetings (one a week), 10 is still a comfortable cushion, but Duric is aware of the Brazilian’s appetite – and that it is a matter of time before the tables are turned.
Turning 43 soon, Duric might be feeling a little like Rocky Balboa, the ageing boxer who keeps fighting for another round – and another movie sequel – and never throws in the towel.
“It will happen eventually. You can’t stay on top forever,” he said.
“Maia is a very good jockey, he’s very hungry, and don’t forget, he’s a lot younger (32) and fitter. He takes 12-13 rides per raceday and he can go another lap!
“I still have a decent lead on him, and I’m sure I can pick up. It’s just been a few of those meetings I rode many seconds and thirds.
“I will give it my all for a fourth title, but things might be different next year. I’m just grateful to be riding here and hope to get relicensed to give it another bash.”
The clock might be ticking, but Duric’s peerless strength in a driving finish has put and still puts many rivals in the shade, old or young.
Going through his 10 rides on Sunday, more than half of them can help get his win-meter beeping again, headed by his gun ride in the day’s highlight, the $250,000 Group 2 Singapore Classic (1400m), Inferno.
“Inferno has been working just as well as he did going into his last race,” said Duric who rode the Cliff Brown-trained son of Holy Roman Emperor (for the first time) to his fifth win at his first-up race on August 8.
“He’s not a morning trackwork superstar. He’s a very relaxed and cruisy type of horse, he even takes 10 to 15 minutes looking around before he starts working.
“But the horse looks great, and the barrier (7) helps. When he jumps from there, I can get him to switch off and get in the running line as he’s a big horse.”
Duric will be bumping into some familiar horseflesh, having ridden and won on four of the 11 rivals, and who happen to be Inferno’s main threats, Mr Malek, Rocket Star, Big Hearted and Sweet Angeline.
But familiarity certainly doesn’t breed contempt in this case. Often afforded the luxury of first option as Kranji’s top gun, Duric wished he could ride them all, but had to go through a painful elimination process to end up with Inferno – void left by regular partner Michael Rodd after leaving Singapore during the Circuit Breaker – as his pick.
Pulling the wrong rein is common in racing, but Duric won’t swap his ride. When asked if inside info of his foe gives him an edge, he shrugged off the idea; he only worries about what is under him, warts and all.
“It doesn’t really matter if I know four of my rivals well. I’ve just got a lot of respect for them as they’re lovely three-year-olds,” he said.
“They make for a very competitive race. All four will excel at 1400m and the mile, but for my bloke, it’s still a question mark how he’ll go at 1400m.
“But my confidence level is good in that regard. He’s a big strong horse and I can’t see it being a problem.
“If he can run out those trips, the sky’s the limit for him.”
– Singapore Turf Club