It is not unusual to see around half-a-dozen jockeys teaming up with a horse in the course of its racing career, but for Countofmontecristo, the record reads 11 in 22 starts thus far - and as many as nine different riders at his last 14 outings.
The fact that Countofmontecristo has not greeted the judge for close to two years could be a strong hint why so many jockeys got to warm the saddle for only a fleeting time.
The last of Michael Clements-trained and Joe Singh-owned galloper’s seven wins came in the Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) on September 10, 2017. English jockey Alan Munro replaced regular partner Glen Boss who had to attend a wedding in Australia, and duly got the job done.
Boss – who partnered the son of Echoes Of Heaven to five (Mohd Zaki was aboard at his winning debut) of his previous six wins – got his job back at his next start, but finished second to Infantry in the Panasonic Kranji Mile.
It was only the second time that Countofmontecristo had tasted defeat in nine starts.
Thus began the musical chairs of jockeys, many of whom figure among the A-listers. Manoel Nunes, Michael Rodd, Alysha Collett, Ryan Curatolo, Troy See, Vlad Duric, and even two overseas hit-and-run hires, Perth’s champion jockey William Pike and Korean-based Irish-Brazilian jockey Franco Da Silva, have all come and gone, but that eighth win had been elusive in 14 fruitless attempts.
Reunited with Boss at his last four starts, Countofmontecristo came up with three seconds which gave connections renewed hopes, and made them realise that old firm was after all a winning formula which should not have been changed.
But a fifth place in the Kranji Mile on May 25 dashed those hopes, finally driving home the message a break was the best thing left to do.
Now six, Singh’s banner horse resumes in a race he ran second to Distinctive Darci last year when ridden by Rodd, the S$400,000 Merlion Trophy (1200m) alongside a new stablemate in Clements’ recent boom transfer Bold Thruster, and what do you know, a new partner, Daniel Moor.
The question whether the Australian jockey will be the hero who can snap Countofmontecristo’s long run of outs is almost akin to the fable of those nobles who came from far and wide to try and pull King Arthur’s sword from the stone.
But Moor is unfazed by the increasingly heavier weight of expectation. If anything, he is spurred on by the challenge.
“It would be nice if I could win. It will help me keep the ride going forward,” he said matter-of-factly.
“He’s always been seen as the heir apparent to Debt Collector. They’ve been sparring partners for such a long time.
“Nothing would please me more than to get Count back on the scoreboard for Joe Singh. I’d like to thank Joe for the opportunity to ride his horse and it sure would be nice to stick with him right through.”
Moor is aware that more serious assignments await Countofmontecristo – the same Singapore Triple Crown series he contested in, minus the last Leg, the Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) considered too far for him. The 2018 results fell way below expectations, even if many felt Da Silva’s hasty ride robbed him of his chances in the Raffles Cup.
This year’s series kicks off with the Raffles Cup (1600m) on September 22, followed by the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m) on October 20 and the Singapore Gold Cup on November 10.
“I trialled him the other day (third to Bold Thruster on August 15) in an all-star trial and he felt in good order. He had a good break when he was in quarantine during the time he was meant to go to Australia,” said Moor.
“He acquitted himself very well. He will definitely take improvement out of this Sunday’s race, but he’s certainly been well prepared.
“He’s a super honest horse who’s always tried his best. We’ll just have to hatch a plan for Sunday and see what he comes up with.” -STC