Champion jockey Vlad Duric is rubbing his hands in anticipation as he heads into Singapore’s very own Super Saturday with what he considers as three genuine winning chances in the three Group 1 races.
The Australian jockey rides Infantry in the $1.5 million Invitational Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m), Distinctive Darci in the $1 million Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) and Mr Dujardin in the $1 million Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m).
Running three Group 1 races on the same one meeting is not only unprecedented in the annals of Singapore horse racing, but also sets the stage for the return of International racing after a hiatus of two years (the Singapore Airlines International Cup and the KrisFlyer Sprint were discontinued in 2015).
Infantry (Vlad Duric) looks in fine fettle at his track gallop on Tuesday morning, picture Singapore Turf Club
Duric admits that of his trio of rides, the Lee Freedman-trained Mr Dujardin might be the “smokie” but the High Chaparral three-year-old was in mint condition and could blow punters out of the water with his late burst.
“Don’t rule out Mr Dujardin. He is the smokie and needs longer, but if there is a genuine pace, he will be in with a chance,” he cautioned.
“He’s got such an explosive turn of foot. I rode him in his barrier trial last week and he ran really well.”
Still, if he were to annex at least one win from the Big Three, Infantry and Distinctive Darci remained his two better chances, he maintained.
“I’ve ridden Infantry only once, and he ran terrific only to find one better in Lee’s (Freedman) horse (Circuit Land) in the Chairman’s Trophy,” said Duric of the Alwin Tan-trained Tavistock five-year-old and reigning Singapore Horse of the Year.
“But I’ve been riding him in barrier trials and his gallops for about six weeks now and I can feel the improvement. He is a very fit horse and does not need any strong gallops.
“Just maintenance work to keep him ticking over. Alwin has done a great job to bring him to his best form for the big race.
“He’s pulled up really well after his last run, and all we’ve given him is just short sharp work.
“It will come down to the barriers and I think Zac Purton’s horse (Southern Legend) will be the horse to beat.”
Duric said Distinctive Darci was at his supreme best in the Group 2 Merlion Trophy (1200m), the second Leg of the Singapore Sprint Series of which the Lion City Cup is the grand final, but the switch to turf was the only question mark.
“He worked beautifully the other day and he felt really good,” he said of the Mark Walker-trained and Fairdeal Stable-owned son of Darci Brahma.
“He really likes the Polytrack, but I’m just hoping he’ll run well on the turf as well.”
Duric currently sits on top of the log, but just like last year, is not out of reach from the chasing pack. On 33 winners, he is only three winners clear of Michael Rodd with another six or seven jockeys not far away.
Despite the slender lead, Duric said he was relishing the challenge and was looking forward to the way the championship will pan out in months to come.
“I was rapt I won the title last year and it’s always harder to have another good year, but I’m happy with my current season,” he said.
“I’m having a good year and getting great support from a good mix of trainers and owners. I’m only four winners shy of the 400 win-mark, it would be nice to achieve it this Saturday, although it would be a big ask.
“The Kranji Mile will be an exciting day and I’m really glad I have three solid chances. It’s fantastic to have international racing back in Singapore as it puts us back on the map again.
“I remember riding in the SIA Cup and the KrisFlyer when I was here (between 2009 and 2011) and it was such a huge buzz. My best performance was a fourth place on Ghozi for John O’Hara in the 2011 KrisFlyer.
“The Singapore Turf Club has done a great job to bring it back. It would be the cherry on the top if I could win the Kranji Mile, but the other two Group 1 races would be nice too.”