Back-in-form trainer Ricardo Le Grange enjoyed a perfect night at the office with two winners from as many starters at Kranji on Friday night – even if he wasn’t physically there to savour the success.
The South African handler has returned home for his annual “pilgrimage” to watch the country’s most prestigious race, Saturday’s Durban July where his former stable jockey Nooresh Juglall happens to be riding one of the fancied runners, Twist Of Fate for Singapore-bound trainer Joey Ramsden.
The boss may be away, but his right-hand woman Jacci de Tert was certainly not having the day off as could be seen from Friday’s fantastic results – which some might joke about that Le Grange should take as hint he should go on holiday more often!
But de Tert is not the sort to bask in the glory, even as a deputy. To the hard-working assistant-trainer, it was part and parcel of the job to fill in when Le Grange is absent – and she visibly welcomed the perfect score with a huge sigh of relief.
“I can go home and have a glass of wine now!” said the South African, a major cog in now-retired trainer Patrick Shaw’s yard for many years and now Le Grange’s, but who would rather work behind the scenes and shun the limelight on racedays.
“Michael (Rodd) read the race very well. He knew exactly where he had to be in the race.
“Coming back from the mile to 1100m on his preferred Polytrack surface, we knew he would always run on at the end.
“Michael did the right thing by taking him to the outside, away from the kickback. In the straight, the leader (Kiss Your Song) was well clear, but our horse has such a will to win.
“We’ve freshened him up and he’s come back great.”
Earlier, de Tert led in their first winner of the night, Ace Harbour ($19), who was finally saluting at his 26th start for the Team Cheval & A Stable. The English-bred five-year-old by Harbour Watch was also ridden by Rodd.
“I didn’t have any rides on Monday, and I was fortunate that Ricky rang me for those two rides,” said the heavyweight Australian jockey.
“Pennywise was very good as a two-year-old and he continues to prove himself every year, even if he’s been finishing midfield lately.
“They went quick and controlled the pace. I just let the pace go, but there was a lot of kickback today. That’s why I let him travel four wide.
“It was a good effort for him to chase the leader down with the big weight (59kgs). When I saw Matty (Kellady) go to the front, I followed him up.
“I thought I would run him down 100m earlier, but Kiss Your Song put in a remarkable run and we had to really fight for the win.
“He went to a mile at his last start (Group 1 Singapore Guineas) and did a good job to win back to 1100m. All credit should go to Ricky.”
Pennywise, who was backed down to $12 favouritism, indeed looked to be on the ropes at the 300m when Shane Baertschiger’s Kiss Your Song opened up to a commanding break, but the Argentinian-bred son of Pure Prize stuck to his task to land the prize by a head.
Revolution (Vlad Duric) ran on strongly to take third place another half-length away. The winning time was 1min 5.15secs for the 1100m on the Polytrack.
Pennywise has now taken his handy record to six wins and two thirds from 13 starts for stakes earnings closing in on the $280,000 mark for his owner Bernard Kantor.
After a subdued start to the 2019 season, Le Grange has been gathering steam of late. In an unusual spot in the third tier of the ladder after the first three or four months, Shaw’s former assistant-trainer has hit a purple patch of form in June with five winners.
With Friday’s double, he now sits mid-table (13th) on 15 winners. There is a good chance the score can improve further with his two leading hopes, Rocket Star and Golden Dash in Sunday’s fourth Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series, the $75,000 Magic Millions 2YOs in Training Sale Stakes over 1200m.