Le Grange backs Penny for a second Colonial Chief

Pennywise (Vlad Duric) will bid for back-to-back wins in the Colonial Chief Stakes.

By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

Pennywise’s 2020 report card does not read anywhere near last year’s, but trainer Ricardo Le Grange has kept to the same Colonial Chief Stakes recipe all the same.

The Argentinian-bred Polytrack specialist won two races in his steady build-up towards his gritty win in the Polytrack mile feature last December.

In contrast, his scoresheet has remained blank this season. In fact, the Pure Prize five-year-old has not saluted since that watershed moment of a career that held so much promise since his two-year-old campaign.

With the racing calendar one of the main collateral damages of the COVID-19 tsunami at Kranji, programming races has become a task more akin to fitting a square peg in a round hole.

Faced with Hobson’s choice, Le Grange had to toss in a few turf races, which partly explained Pennywise’s quiet journey so far. He even raced in the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) but that was probably more because of the proverbial “you turn four only once” – and he ran accordingly.

But his last race on grass on October 31 – sixth to Super Dynasty, less than two lengths off in a Class 2 race over 1400m – was not so bad.

Pennywise might not have been dealt the most orthodox cards towards a title defence of this Saturday’s $150,000 Colonial Chief Stakes, but Le Grange still felt the horse was spot-on.

Besides, regardless of the pathway taken, the litmus test is the race itself.

“He’s a really good horse. We gave him the same prep as last year,” said the South African trainer.

“We all know he’s a Polytrack horse, but his run on turf was surprisingly good at his last start. But this (Colonial Chief Stakes) is what he’s been aimed at.

“Vlad (Duric) gave him a couple of gallops and trialled him. His trial on Thursday was very good and Vlad’s very happy where the horse is.

“We got him to peak at the right time. We got him looking good again, fingers crossed, he runs well. I think he’ll run a very big race.”

Le Grange saddles two other horses in Singapore’s traditional last feature race of the year, King Louis and Senor Don. While the two stable companions are likely to start at longer odds, their handler won’t write off their chances.

Once a Le Grange staple in the classics, King Louis has lost the lustre and turn of foot of his wonder years. Gone are the days when the son of Medaglia d’Oro was often the ‘close but no cigar’ horse, like when he lost the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m) of 2019 to I’m Incredible by a whisker.

The Group 3 El Dorado Classic (2000m) winner gave a glimmer of hope at his first Circuit Breaker run when a fast-closing second under Benny Woodworth in a Class 1 race over 1400m on August 2, but he then fell by the wayside at his next starts, including two unplaced efforts in the Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) and this year’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup at his last start.

It wouldn’t have surprised any if he had been spelled, but the six-year-old will have one last roll of the dice.

“The Polytrack is a question mark but there was nothing else for King Louis in the programme,” said Le Grange.

“With the uncertainty of next year, I thought I’d run him. It’s got good prizemoney after all.

“Hopefully, he draws a decent gate, he’s drawn terribly recently.”

Woodworth, who hasn’t ridden the four-time winner since the Kranji Mile, will be back in the saddle this Saturday, while Le Grange is renewing his faith in his apprentice jockey Krisna Thangamani on Senor Don even if they were soundly beaten in the Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) one month ago.

Krisna was the first rider to unlock the potential of the Argentinian-bred four-year-old by Senor Candy at his fourth Kranji start. They delivered a tradesmanlike win in a Polytrack mile race for Class 3 gallopers, only six days before the Singapore Gold Cup, the race he was bought for by the Yong family.

“He didn’t handle the track,” said Le Grange in reference to the bogged down track.

“In hindsight, I was also too eager to back him up. We should ignore that run.

“He loves the Polytrack and he’s dropping back to the mile. That should put him in with a good chance.


Author: iRace