By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
The wet and cold in England has not dampened trainer Stephen Gray’s enthusiasm ahead of Lim’s Cruiser Royal Ascot mission on June 22.
The Kiwi handler said the two-time Singapore champion sprinter has thrived in the totally new environment even if it took him a while to find his bearings.
“It’s wet and cold, but we’re here with the same passion. Everything’s good with Cruiser,” said Gray.
“He travelled well to England. He took a little while to settle into his new surroundings, he was a bit lost at first but he’s come round after a couple of days.
“He’s done good since, he’s happy with himself, Vlad’s happy with him. He also enjoys looking out the window, he hasn’t seen so much space before!”Race-jockey Vlad Duric is also on hand to get the £600,000 ($1 million) Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) contender on his toes at his daily workouts on the Newmarket tracks.
Since his arrival on Saturday, the Casino Prince six-year-old has just been kept ticking over with the two-time Singapore champion jockey on hand since Monday.
“He’s done just some pacework, today a bit quicker than yesterday. It’s all straight tracks here, like a soft Polytrack, and he’s used to it now,” said Gray.
“He came here fit, he won’t be doing a lot. I’ll give him more time to settle in before his gallop, but I have yet to decide if it’ll be on Monday or Tuesday.”
Gray is not on unchartered territory. Four years ago, he was at the same ground to prepare his other sprinting great Emperor Max for the Group 1 QIPCO Champions Sprint (1200m) also at Ascot.
Though Emperor Max didn’t win (ran seventh), Gray was pleased with the brave run, and it is with the same mindset he is tackling this second adventure in good old Blighty.
“If he was here permanently, I have no doubt he would measure up to the best sprinters here,” said Gray.
“It’s just like when the overseas horses come to Singapore. I’m sure Cruiser will give them a run for their money.
“But travelling is not easy and to win overseas at only one race is never easy. But he’s come out of his last race as good as can be, and he’s in great shape.
“The facilities, the way we’ve been received are a lot better this year compared to four years ago. The English racing people are so happy to see you come.
“At the end of the day, we have the horse to run in such races. It’s all about the passion and promoting our racing around the world.”
Click here to view Lim’s Cruiser’s trackwork on the Newmarket training track on Friday morning.