Vlad Duric has decided to return to Australia for good and continue his riding career there.
The four-time Singapore champion jockey had recently given himself some time and space to choose where his riding career lay – Singapore or back home, in the wake of his decision to cut short his one-year Singapore Turf Club licence for health reasons at the start of October – albeit he had still applied for a 2022 renewal.
The 44-year-old Australian rider, who had already missed one month of riding through kidney issues, at first said he needed the downtime to recover, and then mull over his future when he returns to Melbourne in December.
With his health having improved more quickly than thought, Duric was able to bring decision time forward.
After weighing up his options while factoring in his family commitments, home was where the heart was: He is handing in his licence, although he’s not leaving without a tinge of sorrow.
“I’m doing a lot better. I’m over my kidney stones,” he said.
“I had already decided to take a break, but after discussing with (wife) Storm and my daughters, I thought it was the right time to relocate the family back to Australia.
“Sage wants to become a jockey and I want to be close by when she is there doing her apprenticeship. The youngest one, Audrey, is still schooling and it’s an important time for her, too (eldest daughter Lily is already in university in Australia).
“They’ve been here for six years and they can now catch up with their friends back home. I myself haven’t seen my relatives for so long.
“So, I have withdrawn my licence application for next year. I won’t ride here, I’m going to ride in Australia.”
After Duric had to fight the hardest for his fourth consecutive title last year (went down to the wire with Ruan Maia to eventually land it by three wins), he began the 2021 season well enough, even leading at one stage, but a series of health setbacks (throat lump, thumb injury and kidney stones), compounded by his ongoing weight battle, turned his present campaign into a season of fits and starts, which eventually took its toll on him.
Having not ridden since August 22 when he brought up his last win aboard Prosperous Return, Duric has slipped to fourth spot on 28 winners on the Singapore jockeys’ premiership, 14 behind senior ranks leader Danny Beasley and a whopping 25 behind overall leader Hakim Kamaruddin (apprentice).
From his first Kranji winner Master Key for Len Treloar on April 10, 2009 to Prosperous Return for Michael Clements, Duric bows out the winner of 617 races in Singapore. Around a third of them (214 winners) came at a first stint from 2009 to 2011, during which time he twice ran second to the mercurial Joao Moreira (2010 and 2011).
The Caulfield Cup-winning jockey (Master O’Reilly in 2007) returned for another crack in 2016, again finishing runner-up, this time to another Brazilian, Manoel Nunes, but finally shed his bridesmaid tag the following year before adding three more in quick succession from 2018 to 2020.
Duric will wrap the four trophies up in cotton wool when he packs them in his suitcase, but it’s also the horses who made the Singapore ride just as memorable.
All up, he won 30 feature races, including 12 at Group 1 level, the first two coming at his first stint, including Gingerbread Man in the Singapore Guineas to make a clean sweep of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge in 2011.
It’s precisely Gingerbread Man, now a successful stallion in Perth and the sire of many horses at Kranji, who figured among the top horses Duric will treasure the most, even if his Singapore career highlight was arguably the 2020 Group 1 Singapore Derby aboard Top Knight with whom he notched his last Group 1 success at Kranji one month later on October 31, 2020 in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, one of three majors (other two are the Lion City Cup and Singapore Guineas) he was the most successful in – three of them.
The Bruce Marsh-trained Gingerbread Man gave Vlad Duric his first Singapore Group 1 success in the 2011 Singapore Guineas.
The only big race that is missing from his glowing local CV is the Singapore Gold Cup, the closest he came being at his first season in 2009 with a second place on Given Vision, 1 ½-length off the winner El Dorado, but looking back, it was hardly a blemish on his stellar Singapore riding career.
“I’ve had a great nine years in Singapore. Nothing can take that away from me,” he said.
“I was champion jockey four times and I’ve ridden some ripping horses. Top Knight, Inferno and Aramco are the more recent ones, but there was also Gingerbread Man with whom I won the 3YO Triple Crown.
“Zac Spirit was also a super sprinter, he gave me my first Lion City Cup (2016), which I again won with Aramco (2019) and Inferno (2020). I also won the QEII Cup (2017 Queen Elizabeth II Cup) on Quechua to give Ricardo Le Grange his first Group 1 win.
“I’m extremely grateful to the Singapore Turf Club for the opportunity to ride here for so many years. I will always have fond memories of my time here.”