Lonhro Gold and Juan Paul van der Merwe
Singapore – South African jockey Juan Paul van der Merwe enjoyed his best day at the office on Sunday when he claimed his first double at Kranji.
The lightweight jockey boasted an unenviable strike rate of 2.4% going into the meeting. Only six wins had come his way in 246 rides.
Quantity is definitely not an issue for the Group 1 J&B Met winner (Smart Call in 2016), but quality had unfortunately not gone in pairs.
After another forgettable meeting with five losing rides on Friday, van der Merwe was not holding his breath for Sunday’s book of four rides, mostly aboard roughies, to help him turn the tide.
At best, Super Ray in the $30,000 Class 5 Division 2 race over 1400m could be a third or fourth chance, but the Leslie Khoo-trained one-time winner came agonisingly close with a short-head second to Lim’s Passion (Benny Woodworth).
Maybe that whiff of victory spurred van der Merwe on, because he went one better one hour later, not once, but twice successively with two longshots, Yulong Edition ($79) and Lonhro Gold ($170).
“It’s been a tough season, but as long as the doors are opening with some trainers, I’ll just carry on,” said van der Merwe.
“Lonhro Gold was obviously not my pick of the day. From his draw in 11, I had to work a bit to get my position.
“Once he was in front, I bided my time, and he came back to me nicely. I gave him a breather and they couldn’t catch me.”
While Yulong Edition was his third win for New Zealand trainer Mark Walker (Bejewelled and Sacred Sea were the first two), Lonhro Gold was sealing his first winning combination with trainer Cliff Brown.
The Australian handler was delighted with the way the Denman five-year-old toughed it out for his fifth win, coming in five months after his last, with now all five wins recorded over 1000m.
“He is a beauty. He’s always there making his own luck in front, and today was one of these days,” said Brown.
“I think we’ve had nine seconds for the Yong’s (Gold Stable). They’ll be happy with that win.”
The Gold Stable’s last winner with Brown came on July 21 with Gold Strike, who incidentally ran second in that earlier race captured by Yulong Edition.
Brown said he was pleased with his former champion Debt Collector’s (now racing as Debt Agent) first run in Australia since leaving him after the Kranji Mile in May.
Ridden by Ben Melham, Debt Agent ran eighth, four lengths off the winner Rich Itch in a Listed race over 1400m at Flemington.
“I was happy with the run. He was far more handy than usual,” said Brown who has handed over the 2016 Singapore Horse of the Year to Mornington trainer Jim Conlan.
“There was not a lot of room in the straight, but he came up with the fastest sectionals in the last 600m.” – Singapore Turf Club