Internationally experienced Vodacom Durban July jockey available. On a Gr1 roll. Former Zimbabwe Champion. Fit as a fiddle and can ride at any weight mark.
That’s the advertising brief we suggested to Ryan Munger after the 25 year old rider had put the cherry on the top of the first phase of his burgeoning career with a blockbuster ride to win the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint, brought to you by The Witness, at Hollywoodbets Scottsville on Sunday.
Former Durban July winning rider Stuart Randolph’s nephew announced his arrival on the new generation top-jockey scene with the quickest 1200m on the four-pronged Gr1 speed raceday.
In his typically modest demeanour, Ryan heaped all the praise and credit on Singforafa and her top conditioner, Corne Spies.
“She is really quick and the 1200m is probably slightly beyond her optimum trip. But Mr Spies had her really well and fit and all credit must go to him and to this gutsy filly who beat a super high quality field,” mused Ryan as he explained how the race unfolded.
“Straightforward is the only way I can explain the race in simple terms. I just went through the paces and kept her balanced. To her credit, she showed a big heart and just kept finding,” he enthused.
We asked why there was no victory salute for our hardworking photographer, Candiese Lenferna?
“You asked when exactly I thought I had the race in the bag. Let’s say at the 20m mark! She is so quick, but has a short range from top gear to neutral. She can stop quite quickly. So while I felt that this could be my big day, I decided not to try and showboat and end up red-faced and in trouble. Rather keep my head down and enjoy the moment in the winner’s enclosure,” he laughs as he says she ran all the way to the wire.
Interestingly, Singforafa had run third in the 2020 renewal of the SA Fillies Sprint and third the previous year in the Allan Robertson. This underscored Ryan’s thinking that she may be a few metres short of her blitzing best at 1200m.
He thanked the Corne Spies Racing Team and said that loyalty was the cement in the relationship.
“A vital part of riding successfully is the confidence of knowing that the trainer is behind you. Mr Spies could have taken me off Singforafa for the Gr1 as I had two unplaced runs on her prior to Sunday. So I am glad I could play my small part in seeing the champagne moment all work out for him and his son Xander, who is the owner.”
Ryan was engaged to ride Durban July entry Johnny Hero for Tyrone Zackey in the Jubilee Handicap on Sunday – but after the rescheduling of the Hollywoodbets Scottsville meeting had to surrender the ride to Kabelo Matsunyane.
“He is a nice little horse and Kabelo rode a really good race to win the Jubilee,” he adds sportingly.
As to a possible Vodacom Durban July ride, Ryan says he can ride at any weight and that he is available ‘today’.
“My last Durban July ride was on Return Flight for Mr Sean Tarry in 2019. That was the last July that had crowds on course. It’s an amazing race and everybody’s ambition to win.”
Asked about his previous closest calls at Gr1 level prior to Sunday’s sizzler, Ryan points out that during his Singapore stint in 2020, he was runner-up in the three legs of the local triple crown.
His first Gr3 wins came in the Caradoc Gold Cup with Ilitshe at Turffontein in 2017, while other notable feature wins – all at Turffontein – including the Gr3 Graham Beck Stakes with National Park, and the Gr3 Pretty Polly Stakes on Palace Of Dreams.
He is particularly pleased with having cracked a Gr1 victory just six months after returning from Singapore and says that the first phase of his short career now feels complete.
“A Gr1 was always missing from my CV. One doesn’t get many quality chances, so I will remember Sunday 6 May 2021 forever!”
He adds that he feels that he has really benefitted from his time and experience in Singapore.
“But I must admit at the same time that there is a lot of depth in the South African jockey pool, and many of the jobs I may have had before I left have been filled. So it’s been a hard slog trying to break in again. But nothing worthwhile in life comes easy,” he adds maturely.
While based in Gauteng, he has been focussing on KZN as a second province.
“I enjoy the Cape and Eastern Cape, but in the latter as an example, most of the stables have existing good stable riders. So I was flying down for light rides or second and third stringers. It’s an expensive exercise, too!”
We asked if he’d ever consider going back to Singapore?
“My plan is to try and get into the SA top ten next season and build myself up further. I really enjoyed the professionalism in Singapore. In South Africa, as a jockey you feel more like a worker – it’s a job. Whereas in Singapore you are seen more as a sportsman. They are so organised and professional in all respects. I think the future is exciting and I’d like to believe that I will be riding overseas again, yes!”
We put the South African lifestyle versus Singapore to Ryan and asked him to tell us what the differences are.
“Covid has changed the world. Singapore is a gateway to Asia and the world. It’s beautiful and clean and ordered. But South Africa is our home and we love it – despite the loadshedding and other challenges.”
He explains how he and wife Kelsey lived to an ordered routine in Singapore.
“One gets into a schedule or a timetable – it’s very comfortable. If racing had to return to twice a week there I would definitely try and get back. The cost of living is quite high. Here in South Africa, it’s still affordable to be able to eat out and live quite nicely.”
The Durban-born Munger, who was inspired to follow in the footsteps of his jockey-uncle Stuart Randolph, enrolled at the South African Jockey Academy in 2011.
He was crowned Zimbabwe champion jockey in the 2017/18 season.
Ryan is talented, educated, enthusiastic and ambitious. Weight is not an issue for him.
Enquiries regarding his availability in any region – please contact Wade Viljoen 064 685 6946.