Juan Paul van der Merwe will be the first to admit his first two months at Kranji have been tougher than he had expected, but the resilient jockey is confident things are on the up.
The 28-year-old has only one win on the board since he began his Singapore stint in February – Loving You for Michael Clements on March 1.
Though he does garner some support from a good mix of trainers, both expats and locals, the Grade 1 J&B Met winner (Smart Call in 2016) wished the quality versus quantity ratio would level out towards the former a bit more.
In simpler terms, he is mostly getting on top of slow hayburners.
But he also recognises that competition is really tough in the Kranji jockeys’ room. Every ride is an opportunity to pad up that one stick on the scoreboard.
“The racing is great here. It’s been good so far with an average of five to six rides per meeting,” said van der Merwe, who is licensed until the end of the year.
“The only thing is it’s hard to win races when those horses are those nobody else wants to ride. But I just have to keep chipping away.”
This Friday’s standalone meeting will be busier for van der Merwe, though, and possibly more productive.
Race 2 is the only event where he has no ride from the eight-race programme. Among his seven rides, he has been booked on some quality individuals like Alamak, a flashing fourth under his guidance last time out, or the talented but unpredictable Street Party.
Interestingly, he has picked up two last-start winners, Ganassi and Ichigoichie and a first ride from Japanese trainer Hideyuki Takaoka, Star Jack. The latter and Ganassi presumably came his way following the suspensions of their last-start partners.
Van der Merwe said that on paper, Star Jack (ridden by Marc Lerner at his last-start second to Mikki Joy) is not without claims in the $70,000 Kranji Stakes C race over 2000m, but to him, he is safely held by the Cliff Brown-trained Dicton.
“Star Jack can’t beat Dicton. I would know because I rode Dicton at his last start and he’s a flipping nice horse,” he said.
“He was slow at the start but he was flying at the end. He will be even better over 2000m.
“Star Jack has a chance, too, I did my homework and saw his runs; he is a nice horse, but it’ll be hard for him to beat Dicton.”
Ganassi stunned all and sundry when he handed fellow South African jockey Callan Murray his first win at Kranji at his second start in an Open Maiden race over 1200m on March 3. With Murray serving a two-day ban for careless riding, van der Merwe knows he is filling in when the surprise effect will be gone from the bold frontrunning galloper.
But he will still gun for back-to-back wins even if the Daniel Meagher-trained Snitzel four-year-old jumps from an awkward alley in 10.
“Ganassi is probably my best chance for the day. Unfortunately, he has a bad draw,” said van der Merwe.
“But he came out from a wide draw at his last start as well, led and won. He’s a big forward kind of horse and I hope I can settle him where he feels happy.