By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club
A blinkered Churchill regained his dynamic turn of foot to claim the $70,000 Class 3 Division 2 race over 1200m on Polytrack on Saturday.
Smothered up in fourth place for his charge to the post, Churchill, who was backed down to $14 favouritism, gave his rivals little chance of a response once he was produced by first-time partner Ruan Maia at the top of the straight.
Among the leading bunch throughout, Super Invincible (Iskandar Rosman) still had a kick left in him into the straight, mounting a stiff resistance when Churchill came upsides, but the latter eventually gathered him in to assert his superiority with a smart 1 ¼-length win.
Mr Hooper (Juan Paul van der Merwe) was produced late to finish third another half-length away. The winning time was 1min 10.55secs for the 1200m on Polytrack.
Churchill was bringing up his third win in eight starts, breaking a mini run of outs – two unplaced runs, including one in his target race, the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) in September.
The Smart Missile five-year-old’s first two wins were recorded for Steve Levar and he has now saluted for his new owner Guy Shirtliff at only his second start for the South African, toting up close to $125,000 in stakes earnings.
That figure gets a chance to swell further – as early as next Sunday in the $250,000 Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m).
“I’ve nominated him for the EW Barker Trophy next Sunday. We’ll see what he gets, but most importanty, we’ll see how he pulls up first,” said winning trainer Ricardo Le Grange.
“It was a great ride from Ruan Maia and the blinkers really helped him today.”
The win also rang up a training hat-trick for Le Grange who earlier scored with $48 chance Stormy View ($50,000 Class 4 Division 1 race over 1200m) and $16 shot Hotshots Slam ($30,000 Class 5 race over 1200m), enabling the South African to leapfrog over trainers James Peters and Stephen Gray to sixth place on the log on 22 winners, before Gray got one back with Military Chairman ($52) in the $30,000 Class 5 Division 2 race over 1600m to reclaim his sixth spot.
A four-year-old by Swiss Ace, Hotshots Slam was at his first outing for Le Grange on Saturday, having been unable to find the line in 10 subequent starts since scoring on debut for Shane Baertschiger last year in June.
As for Stormy View, the Argentinian-bred four-year-old mare seems to have gained more confidence since opening her account two starts back with winning partner Krisna Thangamani again in the irons on Saturday.
She has now posted two wins and one second from 10 starts for prizemoney around the $55,000 mark for the Griffin Stable of Mr Rodney Too.
“Stormy View loves the give in the track. She is a full sister to Storm Troops (Saas Fee Stakes winner with War Affair back in 2017) who also loved a wet track,” said Le Grange.
“She has really hit her straps, repaying the owners for their patience. Krisna is also riding with greater confidence now, he puts his horses in a better position now.
“As for Hotshots Slam, he arrived from Shane in great order. I played around with his gear, put a special pair of shoes on.
“Special mention to Noh as well. He’s been riding a lot of work for me in the last three months and his hard work is paying off.
“Noh has also given a lot of input in Hotshots Slam. He’s done a lot of work on him, and thoroughly deserves that win, just like the new owner, even if it’s just a Class 5 race.”