Ken Nicol: With the recent announcement that he will be Glen Kotzen’s main jockey for the coming season, up-and-coming young rider Ryan Munger has been thrust into the spotlight.
One of our hardest working riders, he took over 1300 mounts last season, and the soon to be 23- year-old spoke to us while on the way to his engagements at Port Elizabeth on Monday.
“I have lived in Johannesburg virtually my whole life but will soon be moving to Cape Town, and already have my own place in Blouberg.
“I am looking forward to experiencing life in a different city,” he said.
Ryan come sfrom a racing family of sorts, as 2015 Vodacom July winning jockey Stuart Randolph is his uncle.
“Stuart is my mother’s brother, and when I was growing up I got to know about the racing industry through him. Even now whenever I need advice I can go to him and he will be there.
‘’I decided at an early age that I would like to have a sporting career, and was obviously the right size to be a jockey. I enrolled in the jockey academy in 2011 while in Grade 10. Craig Zackey, Louis Mxothwa, Heavelon Van Den Hoven and Xavier Carstens were all in the same intake as me.’’
Success came early, and his first winner came on 30 December 2012 from only his sixth ride – the filly Nordic Lass for Dennis Drier.
“’I can still remember the race as if it was yesterday and the hair on the back of my neck still stands up when I think about how I won for the first time’’ he says about this special moment in any young riders’ career.
Now Tellytrack manager Dominique Zaki was always a supporter when he was still training, with the likes of listed winner The Angelus, while Precursor for Johan Janse Van Vuuren was another standout ride from the early days.
Indeed season by season he was consistently near the top of the appy ranks, giving him a good grounding when he came out of his time in 2016.
He also displayed his work ethic from early on travelling to both Flamingo Park and Port Elizabeth on a regular basis.
“Mr Human and now Mrs. Miller have really supported me in Kimberley, as has Mrs. Bremner in PE, and hopefully I have been able to repay all of their loyalty” he says about his travels.
He had also started to venture to Cape Town on occasion towards the end of last season, which is how the current arrangement with the powerful Glen Kotzen outfit came about.
With Richard Fourie now officially freelancing but riding predominantly for Justin Snaith, Kotzen was on the lookout for a replacement, and approached Ryan after he won on promising youngster Lanza for the stable at the end of July.
“After I won the Juvenile Plate on Lanza Mr Kotzen said to give him a call. I did, we had a meeting, came to an agreement and here we are.
“Last season was good – I won over 100 races, and finished in the top ten. But the one thing missing on my C.V. is big feature race wins, and joining the Kotzen yard will give me the chance to win more Graded races” is how he sums up his expectations about his new primary job.
Indeed it’s almost shocking to discover that Ryan has only won a single Grade 3 race so far, on Ilitshe for Jurgen Van Heerden in April last year, a definite under achievement for a rider of his standing and ability.
Ryan rates Lanza a talented sort, and expects him to run well in the Sophomore Sprint at Durbanville on Saturday, while he also has high hopes for Herodotus, who is both Computaform and Racing Express’ top bet on the day, and sure to go off a hot favourite in Race 3.
With regard to longer term plans, he unsurprisingly wants to go the same route as recently departed young talents Grant Van Niekerk and Callum Murray.
“My only overseas experience so far was an apprentice challenge in Abu Dhabi back in 2014, but I want to get back there.
‘’I need to flesh out my C.V. with Grade 1 wins, which will enable me to ultimately break into Singapore or Hong Kong” he says with such conviction that you do not doubt it is going to happen for the upwardly mobile young man.