After nearly three months on the sidelines, champion jockey Manoel Nunes has locked away Sept 24 as his first race meeting back at Kranji.
He plans to resume riding trackwork on Sept 17, one day after his last medical appointment when he hopes to get the all-clear from his doctor.
The Brazilian ace has not been seen since a horror fall from Alqantur in the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1,200m) on June 18 when he fractured his neck. Nunes was spared surgery, and was prescribed physiotherapy instead.
On doctor’s advice, the 46-year-old was, however, told the recovery would take three months.
Even if Nunes was 36 wins clear at the top of the jockeys’ log, his competitive nature had him itching to come back sooner if Mother Nature was kind to him.
Around six weeks into his rehabilitation, Nunes had already made good progress.
Regular physio, but also plenty of running, swimming and jacuzzi had the three-time Singapore champion jockey feeling as good as gold.
Mentally, he was also in a good headspace, helped by the recent six-week visit of his Canadian-based daughters Vittoria, 14, and Gabriella, 12.
The fact that he still had plenty of breathing space in the premiership – 22 winners on Wong Chin Chuen – certainly played a large part in keeping any unwanted stress at bay as well.
Nunes is still champing at the bit, and said he could easily slip back into his riding boots this week, but wisely decided to listen to his doctor instead.
“I’ve never felt better. If anything, that break has helped me with my fitness, I feel fully recharged, I’m ready to go,” said Nunes.
“As I lost muscles on my back, I had to do some exercises to push the weight onto my back to rebuild the muscles. I did the same thing in Brazil when I didn’t ride for two years because of Covid-19.
“There’s now no more pain in the neck. I still swim and run every day, but my neck and shoulder movements are fine.
“But my doctor said I had to follow the three-month recovery time as that is their medical protocol for such a sport injury.
“He actually said I was very lucky to be alive and suffer only a tiny fracture when he watched the replay of the fall. He said it was because, as a jockey, I’m an athlete and super fit; someone who is not as fit might not have been so lucky.”
Nunes said during the time away, he tried to stay away from his laptop or television, but just could not.
“It’s been very frustrating to watch the races and some of the horses I’d normally be riding, winning with other jockeys, but we’ve all been there before,” he said.
“Luckily, I had a big lead before I left, and it still looks comfortable. CC is riding so well, but he’s suspended for two weeks and will come back on the same day I plan to return – Sept 24.
“I know I’ll probably have to start slowly with a few rides first as I don’t want the injury to come back. I’m happy with my fitness now, my weight is good, 53kg, but it can only get better once I start riding.”
Nunes, whose last winner was Tiger Roar off a treble on June 4, currently sits on top of the pile on 58 winners, with Wong the next best on 36 winners.
With 12 meetings left in the 2022 season, Wong, let alone the rest who are even further behind, are hanging on to a slim hope of denying Nunes a fourth Singapore champion jockey title.
The six-time Macau champion jockey was an overnight success at his first Kranji visit back in 2013.
He took over the mantle of another Brazilian who ruled the roost for five years before leaving for Hong Kong in 2013, Joao Moreira.
Nunes went on to claim three Singapore champion jockey titles from 2014 to 2016.