Rocket Star ready to fire after eye ulcer setback

Rocket Star (Callan Murray) at his only win on June 9, 2019.
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Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

Rocket Star is resuming from a successful two-year-old campaign this Friday, but if not for the amazing patience shown by trainer Ricardo Le Grange and his staff, that return date could well have been pushed further back.

The exciting youngster came from the clouds to run second in the last Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series, the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe (1200m) in July, bettered only by the unbeaten Inferno.

With Rocket Star boasting a record of one win and three seconds in four starts, Le Grange and Filipino owner Rodolfo Mendoza knew they had a useful sort on their hands.

A well-earned break beckoned, but it unfortunately turned out to be more of an enforced rest. The Star Witness three-year-old suffered from a corneal ulcer that nearly cost him his left eye.

It was touch and go for a long time, but after sleepless nights nursing the beautiful chestnut back to health, along with vet support every step of the way, Rocket Star’s eye was saved.

He makes his racing comeback in this Friday’s $50,000 Class 4 Division 1 race over 1200m on Polytrack.

Just to have brought the gelding back to the tracks was a victory in itself, that’s why to see him win first-up is not high on Le Grange’s agenda. The main goal is the Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes (1200m) on Singapore Gold Cup day on November 10, with the feature race having for the first time been turned into a three-year-old event.

“Rocket Star had a bad corneal ulcer shortly after his last race. It was touch and go, he could have lost his eye,” said Le Grange.

“(Assistant-trainer) Jacci (de Tert) spent a lot of time administering the eye drop every two hours, for four weeks. The vets treatment also helped, Monday through Sunday, and I’d like to thank the vets for their hard work.

“It carried on for four to six weeks, but luckily, we were able to save his eye.

“Obviously because of that setback, that upset his training programme. If not for that incident, he would have been brought back earlier as we’ve all along targeted him for the Saas Fee Stakes.

“This race is still a nice step to the Saas Fee. He trialled good last week (October 3) and his trackwork has been good.

“He’s in a good shape, and I’m hoping his class will carry him through at his comeback race. I’m putting pacifiers on, obviously, to protect his eye from all the kickback.”

The South African horseman saddles a small team of three horses that night, the other two being staying mare Majestic Empress in the $50,000 Class 4 race over 2000m and the unbeaten Field Marshal in the last race, the second Class 4 race over 1200m on Polytrack.

Field Marshal, who is also a Saas Fee hopeful, will be rising in class, having won his two races in Restricted Maiden and Novice company, both over six furlongs and on both turf and Polytrack.

Le Grange is again not overselling his horse’s chances even if the Middle Kingdom Stable-owned three-year-old son of Sweet Orange is widely expected to start as a short-priced favourite.

“Field Marshal has got a lot of upsides. I can’t wait to see him next year over further, and he could also be heading to the Saas Fee next month,” he said.

“In time to come, he’ll turn into a lovely horse over seven to eight furlongs. I’m happy with his current condition even if he is a very hard horse to train as he’s pretty light, so you’ve got to be careful.”

Both Rocket Star and Field Marshal will be ridden by Ben Thompson. The Australian jockey partnered Field Marshal at his second win (Novice race over 1200m on Polytrack on September 6) while he will be at his first link-up with Rocket Star