Woodbine racing fans are in for a treat in 2023 as RYAN MUNGER, a top-10 rider in South Africa and a champion in Zimbabwe, is headed to Ontario next month to start a new chapter in his career.
The 27-year-old will be represented by agent Mike Luider, best known for his longtime client Emma-Jayne Wilson, one of this country’s all-time top jockeys.
“I am looking forward to it very much,È said Munger when talking to Canadian Thoroughbred this week. “Woodbine has a good racing product and looks like a great place to ride.” Munger and his wife Kelsey, who is a licensed assistant trainer and exercise rider, hope to arrive in Canada a couple of weeks before the season begins on April 22.
Munger, who was born in Durban, South Africa, has never been to Canada, but has relatives in the eastern part of the country. Growing up in South Africa, Munger was influenced by his uncle, Stuart Randolph, a very successful rider in South Africa. Munger joined the prestigious South African Riding Academy, a five-year course that encompasses every aspect of horse racing and becoming a rider.
He rode his first race when he was 17 years old and quickly became one of the most respected riders in the very large industry in South Africa. He was the champion rider in Zimbabwe in 2017/2018 season and in 2020, rode in Singapore where he also had a successful campaign. In South Africa, where racing is held every day but at different tracks, Munger would drive or fly up to two hours for races or to work a horse. There are some 150 riders in the country.
Munger is currently in the midst of a top season in South Africa and among his three listed winners on March 4 at Turffontein was Ipso Facto, now a favourite for the South African Oaks, and Good Council, a top contender for the South African Derby. Both races are on the first weekend of April.
The idea of moving to Canada came about during his stint in Singapore. “My wife and I were there during [the COVID-19] lockdown. We tossed around ideas about other places where we might go to ride. We knew about Woodbine, and how big it was, and at first, I thought it was in the U.S. When I realized it was in Canada, I was even more interested.”
Munger was pointed in the direction of Luider, who has also handled the books of champions Eurico Rosa da Silva and Jim McAleney. “I knew of Emma-Jayne Wilson, in fact, everyone in South Africa knows Emma-Jayne Wilson,” said Munger. “What Mike has done with Emma-Jayne is a real feather in his cap and I am very privileged that he will represent me.”
South African racing publications have said Munger is a smart, personable, and modest rider with a knack for saving a horse’s energy for the latter stages of a race.
“The one thing I would say about myself is that I feel like I am a very good judge of pace. You need a horse with a chance, but I am very calm and patient and feel like I can put my horses where they should be in a race.”
Munger is excited to travel more than 20 hours to Woodbine and he is sure to be a great addition to the competitive Woodbine jockey colony.