Bookmark and Share
Da Silva to ride Today like there is no tomorrow
Michael Lee

Globetrotting jockey Franco Da Silva had a sparkle in his eyes when told Korean runners would probably be mostly overlooked in the betting in Sunday’s $250,000 Korea Racing Authority Trophy (1200m).


The Brazilian-born Irish citizen rides Today for leading Busan trainer Kim Young Kwan at the fourth renewal of the annual reciprocal race between the Singapore Turf Club and KRA. Two other Busan-based horses are in the line-up: Gakbyeolhan, also prepared by Kim and to be ridden by fellow Korean-based Irish jockey Fergus Sweeney and the Kim Nam Jung-trained Approach who will have Korean jockey Lee Hyo Sik up.


The KRA has sent teams of up to three horses in the last three years, but none have really been able to pass muster. 

Franco Da Silva is bullish about a good run from Today.

Two sixths are so far the best results: Nobody Catch Me, trained by the same Kim Young Kwan, at the inaugural edition in 2015 won by Super Winner and Parang Juuibo in the next year’s version won by Good News. Nobody Catch Me started at $530 odds and Parang Juuibo was at $271.


The stark difference between Polytrack and their deep sand might explain the lack of success thus far, but Da Silva is not here to study history or surface technology.


Just like the day he decided to fly the Sao Paulo coop to see the world 17 years ago, (Ireland, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, South Africa, India, Korea have already been covered - and now Singapore is next), the 39-year-old has his own tale to tell about heading out there with only one mission statement in his bags: Get the job done.


“Three years ago, I rode a German horse in a Group 2 race (Prix Maurice de Nieuil) at Longchamp, Walzertakt. The French didn’t know him, and he was at 31-1,” said Da Silva who was then based in Germany where he spent 18 months, riding a lot for Walzertakt’s trainer Jean-Pierre Carvalho.


“But I loved being on the outsider, we led and another horse went past, but my horse fought back, and against all odds, we won.


“I always ride every horse with a lot of confidence in any race I ride. Even in Korea, they often give me bad horses and they do run well, and win at times.


“I know the record for Korean horses is not so good in Singapore, but I know Today and he’s not a bad horse at all, even if I rode him only once. He’s still a young horse but has already won 10 races in 13 starts!


“I rode him once in Seoul when he ran third in a Group 3 race. He was not very balanced in that sprint race (1200m) in Seoul but I feel he’s got his balance right when I rode him in trackwork here, the team leader (assistant-trainer) Kim Uk is very good and knows what he is doing.


“I thought he did very well in the Seoul race, considering it was his first time running in a Group race (it was a Group 3 race). The best he’s run against back in Busan was in Class 1 races.


“Look, the Singapore horses have the home turf advantage, and I’ve seen a couple of videos of some of the better ones. It won’t be easy, but I have every confidence in my horse.”


Da Silva, who arrived in Singapore with Sweeney on Monday night, said the couple of “dress rehearsals” before the main act will be of great help. He is also booked aboard Rich Fortune for trainer Alwin Tan in the opener, the $45,000 Class 4 Non Premier race over 1200m and Tuscan Artist for trainer Daniel Meagher in Race 6, the $45,000 Class 4 Non Premier race over 2000m.


“Obviously, I don’t know their forms, but it’d be nice to get a feel what the track is like before the actual race,” said the 450-race winner, most coming in Brazil (183 from 1996 to 2001) and 105 in Korea where he recorded his last big win, the Korean Derby aboard Ecton Blade in Seoul in May.


“From the few days I’ve been here, I’ve been very impressed. The set-up is beautiful and the system is really good.


“I also like the track design, the way they go from right to left downhill. I think it really helps horses around corners.


“I’ve been watching Singapore races since (fellow Brazilian) Tiago Pereira won the big race (Singapore Airlines International Cup) on Gloria De Campeao in 2009. Of course, I was happy to see other Brazilian jockeys doing so well here, like Joao Moreira, who was with me in Sao Paulo, and Manoel Nunes.”


Just like those big-name exports from Brazil, Da Silva has also carved his niche overseas – at the same time as another Sao Paulo jockey, a certain Silvestre de Sousa. Yes, the eventual two-time UK champion jockey shared the same early struggle with Da Silva in cold Britain.


“We were in England around the same time in 2002. I was with John Oxx, Silvestre was with Dermot Weld,” recalled Da Silva.


“It was very difficult to get rides for both of us, but Silvestre kept at it and the rest is history. He also rode in India before he made it big in UK.


“I’ve done okay, but it could have been better if all-up I haven’t had six years of break because of injuries. I had to start all over to get my race fitness.”


But Da Silva is being modest. Though he did not reach the same heights as de Sousa, he has still bounced back well from the school of hard knocks. 


In 2004, the first overseas lure came from Dubai where he rode for seven months for trainer Musabah al Muhairi, splitting riding duties with former Hong Kong great Stanley Chin, booting home seven winners (Chin rode about nine winners).


With a wife and two young daughters back in Ireland, the family man, however, decided to head home in 2006, but the wanderlust never really wore off.


“I could have stayed in Dubai, but I chose family when I returned to Ireland,” said Da Silva. “I was a track rider and rode freelance, rode a couple of winners, went back to Dubai for three months as assistant-trainer to Irish trainer Ken Condon in 2007.


“I was also off racing, was injured. I wasn’t doing so well, but then I got an offer to ride in India in 2012.


“I rode for two big owners, Marthand Singh Mahindra and Dr MM Ramassamy in Bangalore. I stayed there for 18 months and won many big races like the Thousand Guineas at Mysore, and other Group races at Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Pune.


“I then went back to Ireland in 2015 and finally got the job in Korea in 2016. It started really good with my first ride being a winner, Baekdubong, and I then made it three winners with Summit Day and Giga Speed.


“Things have gone well for me in Busan with around 100 winners, and four big race wins, including a Korean Derby for Kim Young Kwan this year.


“It’s tough to get rides but I always try my best on any horse. I will stay there for as long as my licence gets renewed.


“Singapore is a nice place and let’s see how I go with my three rides, especially Today on Sunday!”