RYAN Munger has emerged as a strong contender in the 2018/19 title race for Champion Jockey of South Africa, already keenly contested by Muzi Yeni, Anton Marcus and Richard Fourie, with several others also in the mix.
The 23-year-old bagged two of the three Grand Heritage features for trainer Ashley Fortune at Turffontein on Saturday and finds himself second on the log with 43 winners, just eight adrift of Yeni.
Munger rode Fortune’s Tsitsikamma Dance (an 8-1 Value Bet in Turf Talk’s Newsletter) to a short-head win over Zouaves in Leg 2 of the series, racing handy, and then won the Consolation with a similar ride on Big Mistake (7-2). Both races were contested over 1475m.
Munger said about his winning mounts: Tsitsikamma Dance is a nice horse, he got to the front at the right time and held on. We’re hoping to get him into the Charity Mile.
“Big Mistake won a similar race. He, too, was well drawn, we found the lead and he held on gamely. He’s probably not as versatile as Tsitskikamma Dance, but he’s got good pace. A mile may be touch-and-go, but he can revert to sprinting and be a feature contender.”
Munger credited former Champion Jockey Andrew Fortune for his success this season and said: “Andrew has helped me a lot, just by pointing out little things, small tricks in race riding which has made a big difference and I am grateful to him.
“I believe that confidence has been the key to my results this season. When you’re confident, you change from a ‘grinder’ to a competitor. Confidence makes the difference between short-heads going in your favour and going against you. Horses can feel confidence in your hands and they relax better. You have to be able to trust the horse underneath you, it becomes a partnership of confidence.
Munger has a bright and likeable personality which has taken him halfway to his goals. The other factors in his favour is his strength in a finish, his light weight and his willingness to travel.
“I can ride down to 52kg which presents more opportunities, I travel to PE and to Cape Town, or to where I am needed,” he said.
Munger’s full-time association with leading Cape trainer Glen Kotzen lasted only a few weeks. He explained: “Mr Kotzen requires a full-time rider to work with him. But the way things are going, this has unexpectedly become the season in which I can be in the title race and perhaps earn my National Colours, so I need to grab every opportunity I can and spread my opportunities as wide as I can.
“I will still be going to Port Elizabeth on Mondays and Fridays and to the Cape in midweek to ride mostly for Candice Bass-Robinson, where I’ve been given a chance to ride her runners on which Aldo Domeyer can’t make the weight.”
He will be riding at the midweek Gauteng meetings, while his weekend mounts will be swayed to either side by feature-race rides: “I want graded wins on my CV,” he noted.
Munger has placed himself in good demand with commitment and hard work and he’s getting better with every ride. His entry to the top ranks of local jockeys is welcomed.
Headline photo: Tsitsikamma Dance on his way to Grand Series win. (JC Photos).