Le Grange pulls out three aces by Michael Lee
Trainer Ricardo Le Grange claimed the training honours hands-down on Friday night with a perfect three-from-three.
Cadet, Zac Ace and Mokastar were his only runners for the night, and they all came up trumps to hand the South African his first hat-trick of wins for the season.
After a phenomenal first season when he finished runner-up to Mark Walker last year, Patrick Shaw’s former assistant-trainer had a more subdued sophomore year.
Mokastar (Nooresh Juglall) prevails in the Class 2 race over 1000m on Friday.
Usually in the Top 5, he was just scraping his way into the Top 10 at the end of July, even losing that spot to Hideyuki Takaoka going into August, with the Japanese handler striking four wins on Singapore Derby day, including the Derby itself while Le Grange posted only two wins for the whole month.
But the stars were finally aligned for Le Grange on Friday night, auguring a much better second half compared to an average first half (seven months) which ended with the sad demise of his former champion stayer Quechua in Malaysia last Sunday, piling even more misery on him.
“We had a rough month but we’re getting there slowly. To lose any horse is devastating, but to lose a horse like Quechua was even more heart-breaking,” he said.
“But tonight’s perfect score makes up for it. These are the ups and downs of racing.
“I’ve been in this game long enough, and I can tell you that you’re only as good as your last winner.”
In good or bad times, Le Grange never forgets his dedicated stable staff, especially assistant-trainer Jacci de Tert who is most of the time behind the scenes, but always steps up to the frontline whenever he goes on leave. He recently came back from the UK where he attended the christening of his niece Isla.
“A massive thank you to Jacci. I was away for 10 days, but the horses have all been performing massively,” he said.
“Nooresh (Juglall) is also riding unbelievably well tonight and a big thank you also to the winning owners, the Thai owners, Dr Andy Wong of Zac Stable, and Mark and Emily Yong.”
Friday’s prolific haul has now propelled Le Grange from 11th place to ninth place on 25 winners, 12 behind current leader Lee Freedman.
Of Le Grange’s trio of victors, Mokastar ($33) was arguably the one who faced the stiffest task in the $100,000 Class 2 race over 1000m, rising in class against the likes of Al Green, Autumn Rush and Siam Sapphire, not to mention an awkward alley, but the gallant Poet’s Voice four-year-old defied all these hurdles with great aplomb.
Pressed on by Juglall from his wide alley, Mokastar eventually secured the lead and the steel after 400m, going around $16 favourite Al Green (Craig Grylls) as they negotiated the bend.
Kratos (Lim Aun Kean) then came sliding up on his girth to keep him company. Such a restless journey in the first 600m might have softened Mokastar up for the last dash to the line, but surprisingly, he kept finding when Juglall asked him for the supreme effort inside the last 250m.
Flak Jacket (Matthew Kellady) and Autumn Rush (Simon Kok Wei Hoong) threw a late challenge, but Mokastar was already out of reach as they settled for the minor prizemoney. Flak Jacket took second place three parts of a length away with Autumn Rush in third place another half-length away. The winning time was 59.13 seconds for the 1000m on the all-weather.
“I had to lead as I had no other option. He had no weight on his back anyway,” said Juglall who was bringing up a four-timer (see other report), with the last three wins coming for Le Grange.
“It was a gutsy win. He did it the tough way and fought all the way to the line.”
Mokastar has proven to be a handy moneyspinner for the Yongs’ Tmen Stable, having now taken his earnings past the $300,000 mark from a record of five wins and seven placings in 16 starts.