Rozlan in pole position for gong
Double gives second-year rookie lead, but junior title far from being done and dusted
With Manoel Nunes daylight ahead, the title fight among senior jockeys is all cut and dried, but not among the juniors.
On 10 wins, Jerlyn Seow went into the Dec 2 meeting leading the Singapore apprentice jockeys’ premiership by a slender margin of only one win.
But a riding double from his nearest challenger, Rozlan Nazam, has turned the tables.
Suspense seekers could look forward to a thrilling three-way battle in the last three Kranji meetings this campaign, with Jamil Sarwi snapping at their heels in third place on nine wins.
However, it may turn into a two-horse race very soon.
On Dec 2, Seow lost an appeal against a four-day suspension incurred for careless riding aboard Superior Coat – which led to Zyrul Nor Azman’s fall from Now Picture – on Nov 25.
A reduction to three days meant she had only one meeting, on Dec 9, to overturn the one-win deficit.
Rozlan was delighted with a first career double that came from Stop The Water ($13) for Steven Burridge and Great Command ($48) for his master Ricardo Le Grange.
But the 34-year-old mature-aged apprentice certainly did not see Seow’s suspension as a fillip to his championship hopes.
If anything, he almost felt sorry a shot at history could fall by the wayside.
“We’re both fighting for the title. Of course, I want to win it, but I’d also like Jerlyn to win and make history as the first girl to be crowned champion apprentice in Singapore,” said Rozlan, who started riding only in 2022.
“In any case, I’m only one winner clear. She’s got one more meeting before she’s suspended, she can still go and win five races.
“So, it’s definitely too early to celebrate, and we must not forget Jamil is not far behind.
“My performance has been consistent all year, and I did think about the champion title. But to be honest, I’m more interested in becoming a good rider than winning the title.”
Though Burridge had used the Yishun resident only once before – on the unplaced Countofmontecristo in June – he, for one, has already seen that quality was not in short supply.
“I wanted to give the ride back to Matthew Kellady (who rode Stop The Water to finish second on debut on Nov 25), but he had a ride,” said the Australian trainer.
“So, I approached Ricardo for his apprentice. The boy rides nice, but I was also impressed with his racing brain.
“I showed him the video of Stop The Water’s first run. Some of these kids don’t get it, but he listened good.
“He stacked up the pace. I was worried when the other horse took him on, but he did not panic.
“I told him to wait till the 400m, and he did exactly that. He rode him really good.”
Rozlan did follow Burridge’s instructions to a tee, but not blindly. The tactical nous belied a tally of only 176 rides under his belt.
“From his last start, he was ridden a bit too eagerly to go to the front,” he said.
“Steven told me he can jump awkward. If possible, go forward and lead if the opportunity comes up.
“I kept him settled and tried to reserve his energy as long as I could, as we were on the long course.
“At the 400m, I gave him a niggle and a slap on the shoulder, and he responded very well.”
Burridge also gave credit to the horse, a three-year-old by Headwater, for the imposing two-length win in the $75,000 Restricted Maiden race (1,200m).
“We backed him up after seven days. He’s a very small horse, but he carried only 52.5kg at his debut,” he said.
“He ate up good. If he didn’t, I wouldn’t have run him. But, he’s restricted to this class. I was a bit worried about the distance, but he’s done a good job.
“It’s good to win for Theresa Lee (Fairdeal Stable), as we’ve had quite a few seconds for her.
“She couldn’t be here as she’s in Kuala Lumpur, but I’m sure she’ll enjoy that win.”