Rohan SINGH dug deep into his vault of skills as the field raced along the back stretch in the eighth race at Assiniboia Downs last Saturday, and found his zone.
Well placed on the outside aboard chestnut gelding You Darn Right, he vacillated from third to fourth, then back to third.
As the pack of Hesitate, A Cut Above, You Darn Right and Enzec moved into the turn, the 45-year-old veteran gradually moved his mount up with the leaders and turning onto the home stretch, he pulled the trigger.
By the eighth pole, he had clear sailing all the way to the finish line.
The victory over Hurryin Hoosier and Enzec was more than just another win for the three-time Downs' leading jockey (2000, '01, '05). It was his 1,000th trip to the winner's circle; a trip that didn't come easy this season.
"It seems that any time there is a milestone to reach, everything slows down for some reason," said Singh. "I don't know why. I didn't realize how much of a pressure that was, but when I crossed the line it was like; Whew! What a relief."
The win puts him in some pretty lofty company. Only six other riders have won 1,000 races: Ken Hendricks (1,666), Tim Gardiner (1,458), Tom Adkins (1,318), Frank Licata (1,292), Jacques DesAutels (1,247) and Larry Bird (1,191).
It's been a lean year for Singh, 45, who calls Hillsboro, Texas, home. Trips to the winning circle are getting few and far between. He is currently seventh in jockey standings with only 11 wins. Last year he finished fourth with 42 wins. Since hitting his 999th victory on Ally Scatter on June 30, he had gone 13 races without a win before driving home on You Darn Right.
"It is slow," he said. "There are more riders here now and I'm riding basically local horses. The same horses year in and year out. After a while they tend to slow down a little bit. Some of the new riders who are doing well, if you noticed, they're riding fresh horses."
Mind you, the season hasn't been all bad. On June 16 he rode Pure Oxygen to victory in front of Always Gold and Winning Tactics. He did it again on June 19, winning the $30,000 six furlongs Golden Boy Stakes aboard Bet Your Boots, a dark bay colt trained by American Charles Smith.
Singh tries to get to know everything he can about the horses he rides and You Darn Right is a fine example. "You can feel the nerve lines when you have the reigns, you can feel everything; not literally, but you can sense everything the horse feels. Not everyone does, some of us are good at it, others are average. That horse is a little tricky. The hardest thing to do is get him to relax."
Singh said that in the horse's previous race (different jockey), he had made a quick move a little too early, before the stretch. "We (trainer Ardell Sayler) talked about it, so I tried as long as I could to move on him and I waited till we were straightened up for home."
Knowing the gelding had one burst of speed in him, Singh said that was time then to let him go. "I used that one run he's got, a good 100 yards. I wanted to wait as long as I could and be patient and that is what I did."
Singh, whose first season at Assiniboia Downs was 1992, is not ready to retire anytime soon, but when that day comes, he knows whatever he moves on to, horses will have to be a part of it. "I would love to get into training. I love to interact with horses. I like the idea of getting into a horse's mind. They are so willing to please you. Instinctively they just want to run, and they just run their heart out for you."