By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
The pairing of Rocket Star with Marc Lerner at the barrier trials on Tuesday was a good pointer as to which jockey would be sitting on the smart chestnut this Sunday.
Trainer Ricardo Le Grange confirmed the booking of the French jockey on top of Rocket Star, arguably his leading hope among the trio he saddles in this Sunday’s $250,000 Group 2 Singapore Classic (1400m).
The South African’s two other runners are Sweet Angeline (Benny Woodworth) and Senor Don (Noh Senari).
Rocket Star had Singapore champion jockey Vlad Duric as his rider at his last five starts for a handy record of two wins and three seconds. The Australian jockey has, however, elected for the Cliff Brown-trained and likely Classic favourite Inferno.
“I booked Marc on Rocket Star two months ago. With so many jockeys engaged with other stables, I wanted to get an early commitment so I don’t have to go chasing for a jockey at the last minute,” said Le Grange.
“Marc rode him in his barrier trial this morning. It was just a maintenance gallop to keep his fitness up – I’m very happy with the run.”
The son of Star Witness galloped among a bunched-up group far behind tearaway leader and eventual winner Cousteau (Ruan Maia) throughout to finish third seven-and-a-half lengths off.
“This was just to condition him for Sunday. Everything seems to be all right with him,” said Lerner.
“We need to see his barrier draw to have a better idea how things will unfold for him.”
Things didn’t pan out too well for the Rodolfo Mendoza-owned galloper at his last start in a Class 3 race over 1200m on August 8 when desperately unlucky behind fellow Classic contender Mr Malek.
He looked to have caught the perfect wave as he circled out wide halfway through the race, but a chain reaction of horses shifting out at the home turn knocked the stuffing out of him as he got pushed out the widest.
“He was a victim of the circumstances of the race. He took the worst brunt of it,” said Le Grange.
“He was very unlucky, but still showed a lot of guts to run Mr Malek down to half-a-length. He certainly didn’t lose any admirers.”
Le Grange also produced a positive report card for his two other runners, even if Senor Don, an Argentinian-bred by Senor Candy, has raced only once, beaten about six lengths by Inferno in sixth place.
“At Senor Don’s first run, he got held up at the top of the straight, which cost him a length or two. It was still a good run,” he said.
“He will definitely come on from that run. I was happy with his trial last Thursday, he’s probably looking for longer – up to a mile.”
In that barrier trial on August 20 in which Sacred Don ran fifth, the winner was actually Sweet Angeline (x Rubick), who is undefeated in two starts.
“Sweet Angeline has won twice over 1200m, but the 1400m will be up her alley,” said Le Grange.
“She trialled very well with Benny last week, and I couldn’t be any happier with her going into the race.
“It’s a very strong race with very smart runners. I would say it’s the strongest edition of the race we’ve ever seen.”
The Singapore Classic is the new name given to the second Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge (when known as Singapore Three-Year-Old Classic) after the series underwent changes due to COVID-19, like many feature races.
While the 1400m distance has remained the same, the prizemoney has been dropped from $400,000 to $250,000, and the date was pushed by one month from July to August.
Given Southern Hemisphere-bred horses turn one year older on August 1, the age conditions of the race were extended to Northern Hemisphere-bred three-year-olds and Southern Hemisphere-bred four-year-olds.
The first Leg, the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) was scheduled on June 13, but was cancelled while the third Leg, the Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m) has been rescheduled to September 26.