It’s a fairly safe bet to suggest that Chris Munce knows his way around the Gold Coast racecourse.
Throughout his star-studded 29 years as a jockey, Munce rode three winners of the Magic Millions 2YO Classic via Sunblazer (1989), Excellerator (2001) and Dance Hero (2004) … a record.
Now he’s keen to make it four, but this time looking on instead of sitting on.
Retiring from the saddle early last year, Munce joined the training ranks at Eagle Farm and the transition could be termed ‘business as usual’ with over 60 winners for Munce Racing in the past 21 months.
On Saturday, Munce notched up his best day at the ‘office’ with two juvenile stakes winners courtesy of Ours To Keep in the Listed 97.3FM Phelan Ready Stakes and Champ Elect in the Listed International Interior Images Calaway Gal Stakes, both over 1110m at Eagle Farm.
Notably, each was sourced from Magic Millions sales in 2016 and are now poised to run in the $2 million Jeep Magic Millions 2YO Classic at the Gold Coast on 14 January.
“They raced really well and I was pleased with their efforts,” Munce points out, “there’s not a lot of difference between them.
“Barriers will play an important role, but I think both have got a very good chance.”
Certainly neither have yet tasted defeat with Ours To Keep winning by over four lengths on debut at Doomben on 1 October prior to his Phelan Ready, while Champ Elect recorded her first win at Doomben on 5 November, only to make it a pair in the Calaway Gal.
Champ Elect is by the Coolmore Australia-based stallion, Choisir, and, after originally being sold for $52,500 as a weanling, was snapped up for $95,000 at the 2016 Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale by Adrenaline Thoroughbreds, before then being sent to Munce’s stable.
Ours To Keep, however, was a Munce buy from the Magic Millions in March, purchased for just $28,000.
“He (Ours To Keep) was a cracking type, very strong with good bone. Light on his feet,” Munce recalls. “We had someone lined up to take him but they dropped out and he’s now raced by my wife, Cathy, and good friend, Gary Lawrence.
“We either had the choice to put him through a breeze up sale or race him ourselves, so we opted for the latter.”
Reflective of his many years in the saddle, Munce clearly pulled the right rein because Ours To Keep has now won $128,700 from his two outings and if successful in the Magic Millions 2YO Classic, you can add a further $1.2 million to the bank balance.
Huge payday or not, he has already well and truly proved to be worthy of the name.
“Ours To Keep is the best looking 2YO in Queensland: he’s built like Mike Tyson and floats like Usain Bolt,” Munce adds. “He will only improve from his run in the Phelan Ready and he’s next likely to start in the (Group Three) BJ McLachlan Plate at Eagle Farm on New Year’s Eve before heading to the Gold Coast.”
Munce rode 42 Group One winners throughout his career and is only one of five jockeys to notch up the big four – Golden Slipper (Dance Hero and Prowl), Melbourne Cup (Jezabeel), Cox Plate (Savabeel) and Caulfield Cup (Descarado).
However, you get the impression he’s much happier legging up than being legged up: “Sure, training horses is harder than riding them, but training gives you more satisfaction. A bigger thrill.”
Just how big a thrill might be Munce’s to keep on 14 January.
Ours To Keep is by the stakes winning Rory’s Jester stallion, Seidnazar, who was part-owned by Marylee Trivett and would later stand several seasons at her Banchory Thoroughbreds property.
“I’ve got a full brother to Ours To Keep who was born in September and he’s a lovely type,” Trivett enthused. “The dam (Picabelle) is now in foal to Domesday, but she’s got three winners by Seidnazar including Picavino and Picawinner so naturally I’ve got high hopes for the foal.”
Covering just seven mares in 2014 and 2015, Seidnazar stood this season at James Curtain’s Old Boyneside Thoroughbreds at Kumbia in Queensland at a fee of $2,200.
“We got Seidnazar around September and he’s loving it here,” Curtain claims. “We jumped at the opportunity when we found out that Marylee wanted to move him and he ended up covering 10 mares.
“The stakes winner on Saturday obviously helps and we’ll have our fingers crossed for the big race in January.”