Chris Munce, Rider of the week

Chris Munce (pictured) has ridden more Magic Millions 2YO winners than any other jockey. Can he now train the winner of the 2017 Magic Millions 2YO race?

HE holds the record for riding three Magic Millions 2YO Classic winners – and it should have been four. Now, he’s striving to become the first person to win the rich juvenile feature as both a jockey and a trainer. Former champion jockey Chris Munce has several youngsters gearing up for the $2m 1200m race at the Gold Coast on January 14. They include Doomben winners Ours To Keep and Champ Elect and recent Sunshine Coast winner Skate To Paris.

Chris Munce (pictured) has ridden more Magic Millions 2YO winners than any other jockey. Can he now train the winner of the 2017 Magic Millions 2YO race?

Munce’s three Magic Millions 2YO Classic winners were Sunblazer (1989), Excellerator (2001) and Dance Hero (2004). And he was to have partnered 1994 victor Brave Warrior, but unfortunately got injured earlier in the day and lost the mount to the late Neil Williams.

Munce is one of an elite group of only seven jockeys to have won Australian racing’s grand slam – the Golden Slipper Stakes, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup. He was successful on his MM winner Dance Hero in the Golden Slipper that same year, Descarado in the 2010 Caulfield Cup, now stud success Savabeel in the 2004 Cox Plate and Kiwi mare Jezabeel in the 1998 Melbourne Cup.

After a hugely successful career in the saddle which netted him 42 Group 1 winners, Munce retired from race riding at last year’s Magic Millions meeting. One of his last mounts was Wicked Intent when he attempted to win the 2YO Classic for a fourth time. The youngster finished sixth to Le Chef.

Munce took out a training licence immediately after that 2015 MM meeting, and prepared his first winner little more than a month later (February 25) when Specific Choice scored at Ipswich in a 1666m Class 3 Handicap. Taking to training like a duck to water, he won 12 races in his first half-season and then 31 in his first full season (2015-16). Munce has taken that form into this current season and has now prepared more than 60 winners overall.

Claiming a Magic Millions 2YO Classic so early in his training career clearly would be a real feather in his cap. And he is leaving no stone unturned in a bid to achieve that. Munce secured valuable prizemoney to help escape a Magic Millions ballot ban by scoring debut victories with both Ours To Keep and Champ Elect at Doomben earlier in the season. Damian Browne rode both youngsters. Ours To Keep, a Seidnazar colt, looked the goods in scoring by four and a half lengths over 1050m on October 1, whilst Choisir filly Champ Elect was successful over 1110m on November 5.

Munce’s babies are ready to begin their MM campaigns in earnest on Saturday week at Doomben in separate Listed events, each worth $100,000. Ours To Keep contests the Phelan Ready Stakes (1110m) for colts and geldings, whilst Champ Elect runs in the Calaway Gal Stakes (1110m) against her own sex. Munce says there are contrasting styles between his pair. “Ours To Keep is a gross colt and very laidback, whereas the filly is athletic. “Ours To Keep more than likely will start again before the Magic Millions, whereas Champ Elect could go a month between races without a worry.”

Champ Elect fetched $95,000 at the main Magic Million yearling sales in January, whilst Ours To Keep was much cheaper at $28,000 when offered at the March MM sale.

Bradbury’s Luck filly Skate To Paris, a $10,000 cheapie, was sold a few lots earlier than Ours To Keep and broke her maiden status last month at the Sunshine Coast at only her second start.

Munce also has other MM products Washington Street and Saint Patricks Day, who have yet to race. The latter is an acceptor for Eagle Farm on Saturday to make his debut over 1200m. Both colts were sold at the main Magic Millions sale in January. Washington Street (by Toorak Toff) fetched $13,000 whilst Excelebration youngster Saint Patricks Day realised $55,000.

The aptly-named Ours To Keep will create quite a story of his own – apart from Munce becoming the first to win the Magic Millions 2YO Classic as both a jockey and trainer – if he is first home in the $2m feature. Munce purchased the Seidnazar colt on behalf of prospective owners, but they pulled the pin after the sale had taken place and left him “carrying the can”.

Munce and his wife Cathy decided to keep the colt (hence his name) and she races him in partnership with Gary Lawrence. It has proved a wise investment. Ours To Keep has already more than covered his purchase price by collecting $64,700 (including a $24,500 bonus) from his Doomben debut success – and can boost that by a whopping $1.2m if successful on January 14.