Hip, hip hurray for Callan Murray
South African youngster snares first victory as Kranji-based jockey aboard the Daniel Meagher-trained $148 outsider Ganassi
On Friday night, South African jockey Juan Paul van der Merve broke the duck at his 33rd Kranji ride, Loving You, since arriving in late January to kick off his Singapore stint.
While the 28-year-old with about 700 winners took a bit of time to greet the judge, his countryman Callan Murray had better luck, savouring his first taste of victory at Kranji at only his second day of riding - aboard $148 outsider Ganassi yesterday.
It was only his seventh ride, after making his Singapore debut on the night van der Merve rode his first winner. On Friday, Murray had four rides but all finished unplaced.
Murray, 22, did not get off well yesterday, finishing unplaced on Salamence in Race 3 and debut winner Mon Energy in Race 3, but Lady Luck suddenly appeared.
Never mind Murray was on a horse not given much of a hope in Race 4 but, with the luck, he managed to lead all the way on the Daniel Meagher-trained Ganassi in the $20,000 Open Maiden event over 1,200m on turf on the Long Course C.
Ganassi had only the one run under his belt for a last placing, after tracking the leader, on Feb 3. But the addition of blinkers probably perked up the Heran Racing Stable-owned four-year-old.
There was a keen tussle for the lead but Murray secured the front seat after the field settled down at the 1,000m mark. He soon built up a two-length advantage over the grey Pensylvannia and Atlantean.
The favourite Cru Bourgeois, who played up in the barrier before the start, was slightly worse than midfield and was later reported to have bled.
While many felt Ganassi would fold up in the straight with his fast tempo, the son of Snitzel kept going and going under Murray's left-hand whipping. The winner went on to beat the late-closing Stardice by 11/2 lengths and in a good time, 1min 10.54sec.
"Yes, I'm rapt - really happy to get a winner on the board.Yeah, really good to be here," said Murray, a South African whizz kid with about 370 winners in his short career.
Although Murray has not ridden Ganassi before, he reckoned his mount was "pretty good" based on his short-head second with blinkers behind Zac Ace in a recent trial .
"I just pretty much bounced him out and he galloped to the line very well. I wouldn't be surprised if he can win another furlong (200m) longer," he said.
Young Murray's rise as a top-notch rider has been well documented.
Crowned South African champion apprentice jockey at only his second season in 2015-2016, his other highlights were his Grade 1 victories.
After his first in the SA Classic aboard Heavenly Blue for top trainer Mike de Kock in April, 2017, he bagged three more Grade 1s a month later at the Champions Day race meeting at Turffontein on May 6, 2017. They were Deo Juvente in the Premier's Champions Challenge, Rafeef in the Computaform Sprint and Mustaaqeem in the SA Nursery.
This was followed by his first overseas stint, Melbourne, where he rode four winners during his six weeks with leading trainer David Hayes.
Then came his three-month stint in Hong Kong - the Mecca of horse racing - at the end of the 2016-17 season.
Among his four winners were the Group 3 Sha Tin Vase on 89-1 outsider Lucky Year and the Group 3 Premier Plate aboard Horse Of Fortune.
But his career hit a brick wall during his recent second stint in highly competitive Hong Kong. He rode only a couple of winners in his six-month contract from August last year.
With Hong Kong behind him, Murray is now dead-set to redeem himself in Singapore.
"I have to work hard and show my name out there. The last seven months have been tough, but I have the confidence I will be successful here," he said in a recent interview.
Well, Ganassi could be the first of many for the young and talented rider at Kranji.