Van der Merwe Dashes home after long run of outs

South African jockey Juan Paul van der Merwe looked like he had just won the Durban July after he steered two-year-old Golden Dash home on Friday night.

Golden Dash winning the RESTRICTED MAIDEN
Golden Dash winning the RESTRICTED MAIDEN Picture: Singapore Turf Club

You could forgive him for feeling that way even if it was just a modest Restricted Maiden race. Van der Merwe was snapping a long run of outs that goes back as far as March 1 when he opened his Kranji account with Loving You.

Even the wait for that Kranji ice-breaker had been long time coming - around one month since he arrived in Singapore late January and at his 33rd time of asking.

Little did the winner of around 700 races - in mainly South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mauritius - know he was in for an even drier and more frustrating spell than the first. Van der Merwe went through another 95 losing rides over more than three months of wondering when the next payday would come along.

The 28-year-old, who is certainly no slouch having ridden 11 Group winners, including the prestigious Group 1 J&B Met with Smart Call in 2016, was a picture of mixed relief and joy at the winner’s circle following the running of the $75,000 Restricted Maiden race over 1200m.

Obviously, like any jockeys’ tales of ups and downs, he has been through a few dark tunnels, but certainly not as long as this one, with the Ricardo Le Grange-trained Golden Dash the light at the end of it.

“It’s definitely awesome to win again,” he said.

“I’ve been battling to get nice rides. A big thank you to Ricardo who’s been very good to me.

“This horse is still very green. I was worried about the Short Course as he’s a big baby.

“He broke okay. We pulled out early for a clear run and he fought on nicely, I’m just happy to get the win again.”

Le Grange was also happy for his fellow countryman, but also for himself given his own downturn in fortunes this season where he sits mid-table, a far cry from his first season runner-up finish on 65 winners in 2017 (he followed up with another successful season on 41 winners last year). Golden Dash  was bringing Patrick Shaw’s former right-hand man into double figures for the first time this year.

“It’s been very frustrating this year, I’m not going to kid you about that,” he said.

“There is a lack of horses. Going around every couple of weeks is boring, but I have 10 nice young horses coming up and Golden Dash is one of them.

“I’m super rapt for JP as he puts in the hard work. Thanks also to the Yong family, they’ve been a great family for Pat and now me, and it’s nice to see them win another race tonight.”

An Argentinian-bred two-year-old by Suggestive Boy, an unheard of stallion here, Golden Dash, who was punted down to $12 favouritism, was always travelling in a striking position in fifth spot, smothered up among the leading bunch.

Homeward-bound, he was peeled out wide for his dash to the line, and though he was inclined to lug in when his rider pulled the whip in the right hand, he had enough raw ability to gun down the leader Gamely (Joseph Azzopardi) by half-a-length.

Trafalgar (Vlad Duric) came from the ruck to take third place another 1 ¾ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 10.83secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.

Singapore Turf Club