Reaching 2,000 wins: Nunez is loving it, Latest Racing News

Brazilian jockey Manoel Nunes needed four winners to reach a personal milestone of 2,000 winners at Kranji on Saturday (May 28) – and he sure did it, even if the final Midas touch did not come from one of his better-fancied rides of the day.

From his usual handy book of eight rides from the 11-race programme, Flashfast, Dancing Light, Shepherd’s Hymn, Wawasan and Takhi were all strong chances to get the mercurial jockey home in his global bid.

After his first three rides Takhi, Flashfast and Wawasan, all favourites, duly saluted to edge the well-travelled 46-year-old to 1,999 winners, one could easily imagine headline writers already inking the figure 2,000 into the title.

Given he still had plum rides like Shepherd’s Hymn, Ksatria, Boy Xander and, more pointedly, Dancing Light left, the odds of at least one of his remaining five rides scoring would have been slashed to ridiculously short odds.

As is often the case in racing when the formbook is thrown out the window, all four bit the dust. 

But luckily for Nunes, it was left to Loving Babe, unplaced by an aggregate margin of around 23 lengths at his last three starts, to turn unlikely hero.

Under a typical can-do ride from the record-chasing hoop, Loving Babe ($32) wore down a fighting Golden Dash (Akmazani Mazuki) to get up by the barest of margins.

The Jason Ong-trained five-year-old by Scandal Keeper did well to put his nose down where it mattered, because both Shepherd’s Hymn and Dancing Light faltered in the last two races.

To the highly prolific rider, it was the end itself more than the means that mattered in completing another chapter to a decorated riding career that began 27 years ago with his first winner Beloir in Sao Paulo in June 1995.

Prizes from a total of 73 Group races, 25 at Group 1 level, 10 champion jockey titles, six in Macau, three in Singapore and one in Mauritius adorn his trophy cabinet. 

But yesterday’s landmark would be right up there with his major highlights.

“It’s great. It’s a great achievement to have as it’s not easy to reach especially after I’ve been riding in Asia in the last 20 years or so,” said Nunes.

Besides his native Brazil, Macau, Mauritius and Singapore, he has also plied his trade in Argentina, Hong Kong, Dubai and South Korea.

“In most of the countries in Asia, you ride only once or twice a week. So, it’s tough to reach this mark,” he said.

“I’ve ridden most of my winners in Macau as I spent the most time there – 10 seasons – but Singapore is also a special place to me.

“I’m so glad and satisfied as it’s been a bit difficult in the last two years when I’ve not been riding because of Covid-19.

“So, all things considered, it’s quite amazing to pull it off today. I must also mention the great support I’ve had in Singapore since I came back.”

Nunes is not too surprised Loving Babe was his milestone supplier.

“I expected a good run, not the win maybe, but I always try my best on all horses,” he said.

“Jason always puts me on when his horse has a good chance.”

Relicensed at the end of last year after a hiatus of four years, Nunes is in his sixth full season at Kranji.

He figured among the leading jockeys at Kranji between 2013 and 2017, landing the Singapore champion jockey title three times from 2014 to 2016. 

He left at the end of the 2017 season with a total tally of 496 winners, bumping it up with Limited Edition (also trained by Ong) to 497 at a one-day visit in 2019.

After Good Fight handed him the 500 on Nov 20 last year, six months on, he ticks another box.

With the latest four-timer extending his tally to 55 winners – 34 clear of Oscar Chavez – a fourth Singapore title looks a foregone conclusion, even if the halfway mark has not been reached yet.

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