Nunes sends out an early warning
Former three-time Kranji champion ends his short 2021 season on a heartening note
When Manoel Nunes drove Heartening Flyer to victory in the last race on the last day of Kranji's 2021 racing season just last Saturday, he also drove home a message to his legion of fans.
It was a heartening message to his followers. But a chilling one to his rivals.
Nunes had, in a flourish, tossed his hat into the ring and his intentions were clear.
Come 2022, he was going to reassert himself as Singapore's top jockey. And it wasn't just directed at the newly crowned champ, Hakim Kamaruddin.
It was also aimed at the talents in the senior ranks - like Danny Beasley, Oscar Chavez and the French franchise of Marc Lerner and Louis-Philippe Beuzelin.
After being, quite literally, in the wilderness for the last couple of years and, for much of 2021, Nunes was back in the saddle early last month.
Finally free of the shackles which had grounded him for so long, the horse he rode on that comeback was, quite aptly, called Wind Of Liberty - as in whiff of freedom.
It ran third. But eight races later, Nunes was in a familiar place - the winner's circle - when Bizar Wins led all the way to win over the sharp Poly track 1,100m.
Now in demand, he had eight rides at the next meeting and he garnered even more fans when he notched up a double.
Both his winners, Resurgence and Thunder, were trained by Tim Fitzsimmons, who incidentally, is also primed for a good new year. The 40-year-old trainer would go on to saddle 33 winners for the year.
But, come next month, all eyes will be on the flashy Brazilian.
However, Nunes will miss the opening day's action as he serves out a one-day suspension for a careless ride on Despacito on Nov 20.
That said, he ended the season with a double on the day which brought his one-month tally to an impressive eight.
The 46-year-old had said on arriving here in October that he was "really looking forward to riding again for the same trainers and owners" who supported him the last time he was here.
He went on to say: "Singapore has been good to me and I am excited about the future."
Already a three-time Singapore champion jockey - he won the titles in 2014, 2015 and 2016 - Nunes hit a personal milestone on Nov 20. He achieved his 500th Kranji winner on the Donna Logan-trained Good Fight.
And, when the dust had settled after the last meeting on Nov 27, he had ridden a grand total of 504 Singapore winners.
Numbers seem to fall nicely beside Nunes' name. And, being the talent that he is, he will be looking to add to that already-impressive haul.
Watch him rev up the action in the New Year.
His countrymen gave us samba soccer. This fella is like them. When he puts on his riding boots, he, too, can score.