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Red Dragon to rise to the occasion

Year of the Dragon and Nunes’ third ride in a row augur well for trainer Mahadi’s 5YO

Jockey Manoel Nunes and trainer Mahadi Taib are not a combination often seen at Kranji.

For a start, it is a well-known fact that the five-time Singapore champion jockey is not easy to get as he is almost always booked out by the leading yards.

The Singaporean trainer is not among them. He does helm a sizeable stable of 34 horses, but most of them are second-tier stock.

All up, Nunes has ridden only six times, half of them on Bureaucrat, for the third-year trainer, without any success thus far.

Two of the rare pairings came on Red Dragon. A third place in a Class 4 race (1,700m) at the Redwood five-year-old’s last start on Jan 14 was their best result.

The fact that the Brazilian is back aboard in a similar event on Feb 17 is a good omen to Mahadi.

“It’s difficult to get Nunes on my horses, but he’s the one who kept asking when Red Dragon will run. I suppose he likes him,” said Mahadi.

“He’s ridden him in trackwork only once as he’s also very busy in the morning.

“But I think, after two race rides, he already knows the horse well.

“The field is not very strong and he’s meeting more or less the same horses as last time, for example Super Bowl (second), Blue Idol (fourth) and Roda Robot (fifth).

“The only thing is he’s giving weight to a lot of horses, but it shouldn’t be a problem. He should be able to handle that.”

To secure Nunes’ services is one thing, to combine for a first success is another – even if the chances of that happening have doubled.

Nunes will for the first time ride a second horse for Mahadi on the same day – Steady Punpipi.

While his quirky name never fails to draw a chuckle for its local Singlish colour (it means cool and composed under pressure), it is harder for connections to see the funny side of his 13-0-0-1 record.

Mahadi is not giving up on the Yong Yong Stable-owned three-year-old maiden by Rubick, though.

“He’s actually not a bad horse, but he’s had no luck. Except for once or twice, he’s always getting wide draws,” said Mahadi.

“He also gets fractious in the starting gates most of the time. That doesn’t help his chances.”

Reins have changed hands as often as eight times, with his best showing an eye-catching third place under Iskandar Rosman in an Open Maiden race (1,400m) on Oct 28.

The expert steer he will get on Feb 17 is not lost on Mahadi.

“He’s not an easy horse to ride. But he’s drawn well this time (two) and he’s got Nunes on,” said Mahadi.

“This should hopefully give me a better guide on his ability.”

Otherwise, his only 2024 winner Qaraat will also go around, as well as roughie Sheng Warrior, who has yet to show any ability in 17 starts.

Qaraat, a 10-year-old son of Mossman who used to be a top Kranji sprinter known as Super Fortune around 2017-2018, is bidding for win No. 10 in the $30,000 Class 5 Division 1 race (1,200m).

“Qaraat is a 10-year-old, but he doesn’t look it,” he said.

“He’s in very good condition and he has a big heart.

“I’ve put (apprentice) Faiz (Khair) on him for the 4kg claim. He’s a chance, but my best chance is still Red Dragon.”

A victory would sync well with the Year of the Dragon, though Mahadi would probably welcome it more like a much-needed shot of good fortune.

“We’ve got just one winner in 2024 so far, but the season’s actually been okay,” he said.

“The horses are running well like our four seconds and four thirds show.

“Mr Big Brother ran second twice.

“They’ve just been unlucky. We just need a bit of luck, and we’ll be all right.”