Australian jockey Vlad Duric said he could smell the roses better after he won his first senior title in Singapore last year.
He was leading Victorian apprentice jockey in 1995, but has never claimed any other title since, be it in Australia or overseas.
With the Melbourne metropolitan ranks dominated by the Damien Oliver and Craig Williams in the last two decades, Duric, who rode mainly on the provincial circuit, has never had a real go at the premiership in his own backyard, though he still managed to land one of his country’s most prestigious races, the Caulfield Cup aboard Master O’Reilly in 2007.
Top hoops whoop it up: Vlad Duric and Wong Chin Chuen raise their trophies to the cameras, picture Singapore Turf Club
At previous overseas stints in Macau and Mauritius, he did not spend long enough seasons to be in the running for the top prize, but he quickly made his mark at his first visit in Singapore in 2009, going on to finish runner-up to Joao Moreira at his next two seasons.
Duric made his Kranji comeback five years later in 2016, duly finding his way back to the top of the hierarchy, again finishing second to Manoel Nunes.
But 2017 was to be his year. Showing consistency from the word go, Duric gradually broke clear from the halfway point, and even if he was a little “dour” in the last few months, he still held a healthy margin of six winners (83 versus 77) from Nunes to turn the tables on his 2016 victor.
Along with the other “human” champions Mark Walker (trainer), Wong Chin Chuen (apprentice jockey) and Mr Lim Siah Mong (owner), the jockey from Nar Nar Goon received his trophy at the Singapore Racing Awards gala night at the St Regis Hotel on Monday.
“It’s very humbling and at the same time it’s a real honour and privilege to join so many big names on the honour roll, like Joao Moreira, Manoel Nunes, Saimee Jumaat, and the list goes on,” he said.
“I’m lucky that I enjoy the support of many trainers and owners, even if the support that I received from Mark Walker, who himself won the trainer’s title, has been a significant boost to my title chase.
“My win on Quechua in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup is my highlight of the year, but I was also excited with my association with up-and-coming horses like Chopin’s Fantaisie and Tannhauser.
“I have come in second so many times and you have no idea what it means for me to win this champion jockey title here in Singapore.
“I was Dux of the Victorian apprentices in 1995 and finished second to Brett Prebble three times and then Craig Williams, but this is different. I was much younger then, whereas I am older now and I can smell the roses with this first champion jockey title, more so when I won it away from home.
“It’s a lot harder when you move country with your family, especially with three daughters (Lily, 16, Sage, 15 and Audrey, 12) who miss their home. I really appreciate their support as well as my wife Storm’s when I decided to come back to Singapore.
“Last but not least, I have to thank the Singapore Turf Club for giving me the chance to ride here again. I came close a few times, and now I hold my first title, nothing can take this away from me.”
Whether he can go and add a second trophy on his mantelpiece remains to be seen. He may have missed the first two meetings through suspension for careless riding, but if he can continue on his momentum, he should be able to make up for it rather quickly.
“I had a long break during Christmas and obviously, my weight has ballooned during that time,” said Duric.
“But I’ve been working hard and even if I’m not 100% there, I am confident it will take me only a few meetings before I reach my peak fitness.
“I can’t wait to be back and I look forward to another competitive season this year.”
Duric will ride at his first 2018 meeting this Friday.