Racing

Maia off to a great start with a treble

Last season's narrow runner-up says it's still a long way to go for this year's Singapore jockey's title

With four-time Singapore champion jockey Vlad Duric out of action on Sunday with a careless riding suspension, Brazilian ace Ruan Maia has jumped to a great start with a treble from the first race meeting of the 2021 Singapore racing season.

Duric will also sit out this Saturday's meeting, giving his riding-high rival the chance to gain a bigger headstart.

Maia took the "auspicious" first race of the year with the Jerome Tan-trained Per Incrown, followed by the Lee Freedman-trained Super Invincible and the Tan-trained Surpass Natural.

He missed a four-bagger when his last-race mount, I Am Sacred, was caught in the final few strides by the Steven Burridge-trained lightweight Wealth Elite.

But, as humble as ever, Maia would not read too much into the flying start.

"It's a great start, but this is only the first meeting. There is still a long way to go," said the two-time Macau champion jockey, who gained on Duric in the final few meetings last year to be only three winners behind.

It was his first full season.

Added Maia: "Well done to Jerome too, as he's also the leader today."

Tan just laughed off the compliment, as he knows the cream would eventually rise to the top.

But the Singaporean handler, who trains just under 30 horses, was glad he has made an auspicious start to the new year, especially with two horses who just landed at his stables.

"Both Per Incrown and Surpass Natural came to my stables around one month ago, and credit must go to their previous trainer, Leticia Drgaon," said Tan, who has also received Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy winner Exceed Natural, Strong N Powerful and Sky Eye (also victorious at his first outing under his care) from the same connections.

"She has kept both horses to the mark and has done most of the hard work. They were well and fit, and I'm just lucky to get the results.

"Surpass Natural is a good Polytrack horse and that was the race I had targeted for him. He's been trialling very well.

"I'm not sure what's next for him. We have less racing now and we can't really plan ahead. We'll just see what happens."

It was Surpass Natural's seventh success from 13 starts. He brought his earnings to the $300,000 mark by taking the $100,000 Kranji Stakes A Happy New Year Stakes over the Polytrack 1,200m for Sky Eye Stable.

Maia jumped the five-year-old Australian-bred swiftly and poked ahead, chased by a cavalry charge.

Five-time winner Excelling took over the running on settling down but was covered by Altair and Webster on his outside. Maia relaxed and sat in fourth spot, biding his time.

Excelling broke clear approaching the straight. Altair was gone. Webster moved up but wide, providing a huge space for Maia to go through.

One could easily picture the jockey chuckling to himself at the inviting passage. He also knew his mount's liking for the Polytrack. It became child's play, with him going on to win like a $13 favourite should.

Pennywise, ridden by Juan Paul van der Merwe, atoned from his last-start flop in the Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes over the Poly 1,600m a fortnight ago with a run on the fence to snatch second.

The Ricardo Le Grange-trained chestnut five-year-old was just 1/2 length behind.

Surpass Natural clocked a swift 1min 09.89sec for the trip, bettering Skywalk's class record of 1min 10.48sec and only 0.15 sec slower than the great Rocket Man's course record set 10 years ago.

"He's a very good horse. I think a horse nearly passed him at one stage, but he fought back," said Maia.

HORSE RACING