Via Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
While all the carry-on around the unbeaten Inferno keeps injecting the passions in Sunday’s $175,000 Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes (1200m), trainer Ricardo Le Grange has quietly chipped away with the preparation of his two runners, Field Marshal and Rocket Star.
Just like Inferno, one has won all his three races while the other might potentially have kept the same clean sheet if he had had better luck.
Le Grange is aware he has two solid ammunitions in the undefeated Field Marshal (x Sweet Orange) and former top juvenile Rocket Star (x Star Witness), who besides one slashing win in one Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe two-year-old series, the Thoroughbred Breeders Australia Centenary Stakes (1100m on Polytrack) in June, was unlucky to find one better at his other four starts.
Long locked in as their last assignment for the year, the Saas Fee Stakes was changed to a three-year-old feature race last year when it was captured by last year’s standout in that age group, Bold Thruster.
Cliff Brown’s Inferno is the horse with that aura one year on, but Le Grange could not fault his two young guns either.
“I respect the opposition as usual, but my two horses are very well. They will both wear blinkers for the first time,” said the South African trainer.
“It was 50/50 for Rocket Star because of his eye (recently recovered from an ulcer), but we feel he needs it now. If not for the eye setback, he would have worn it right away, no doubt about it.
“As for Field Marshal, Ben Thompson told me after his last start he would benefit from a pair of blinkers. He will be more focused.
“He needs to be more in touch with the leaders. He can’t afford to give too much start at this level.
“Rocket Star trialled last week (last Thursday) and was very impressive with his win, but I’ve opted not to trial Field Marshal as he is a light-framed sort.
“I’m also rapt Barend Vorster is back to ride Rocket Star. I asked him if he would be available and he said ‘yes’ right away.”
Le Grange would as usual not split his two horses, neither would he speculate too much about the eight rivals they will be pitted against.
“It’s a competitive field and I’m here to just train my two horses and present them at their best,” he said.
“I only know my horses, and they’re both going well.”
It is with the same professionalism that Le Grange has handled King Louis’ build-up towards his grand final on the same day as the Saas Fee Stakes, the $1 million Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m).
“Things have gone to plan with King Louis. He is in good shape and will enjoy the trip,” he said.
“He has drawn well in three. My only concern is how he handles the first bend, hopefully he stays out of trouble.”
King Louis ran an agonisingly close second to I’m Incredible in the second Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series – of which the Dester Singapore Gold Cup is the third Leg – the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m).
He wore blinkers then and will again wear them in the Singapore Gold Cup, and will again be ridden by multiple-champion Perth jockey William Pike, who is desperate to break his Singapore feature race hoodoo.
Not only Pike ran a nose-second in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, but in 2017, he and Bahana missed out by the same margin to Gilt Complex in that year’s renewal of the Singapore Gold Cup.