By Larry Foley, Singapore Turf Club
Although Renzo won as a two-year-old at only his second career start, it still took trainer Ricardo Le Grange more than a few months to figure out the early enigma that he was.
Two good turf runs – including his first win – were followed by a flop on the Polytrack in Novice company at his third start and given his breeding – Argentinian – it was somewhat of a surprise that Le Grange suggested post race that he “was better suited on grass.”
Sometimes trainers – even the good ones – get it wrong.
Renzo bombed again at his next start – this time on the turf – so it was quickly back to the drawing board for his puzzled trainer.
After that, blinkers were added and a return on the Polytrack saw an instant result with Renzo winning handsomely over 1200m in Class 4 Company at his fifth start.
Eight starts later, that formula has stood up strongly and after a crack on the turf in the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) on June 18 where he ran fifth to Golden Monkey, it is back to what he knows best on Sunday – the Polytrack – in the $50,000 Class 4 Division 2 race over 1200m.
“He had me in a tailspin this horse,” confessed Le Grange in an interview on Thursday.
“He was showing nothing on the sand (Polytrack) at the (barrier) trials so we started him on the turf and that looked a smart move early.
“But his breeding came through and while he handles the turf – he wasn’t disgraced in the 3YO Sprint – the Poly(track) is definitely his best surface.
“And the blinkers made him focused and he really hasn’t put a foot wrong since they went on.”
Although drawn wide with an inexperienced apprentice jockey in Fahmi Rosman onboard, Le Grange is confident of a good run.
“Look, although the gate (nine) is a bit tricky, I think the planets have aligned on Sunday,” he continued.
“It could be a big moment for young Fahmi but we wanted weight off and it would be great to give him his first win.
“He doesn’t have to lead – (jockey) Vlad (Duric) will probably lead on (trainer) Tim’s (Fitzsimmons) horse (Gold Ten Sixty-One) – so Fahmi can see how the race pans out early.
“The horse is definitely in a good place – he trialled up well last week and his trackwork has been good. He should go well Sunday and going forward, as he is better than Class 4.”
Le Grange – fresh from a rare holiday to see his family in the US – also thinks that his Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) entry, Hongkong Great, has plenty to offer in Singapore after the former Hong Kong winner trialled second to stablemate Pennywise in heat. No 3 this morning.
“I’m learning about this horse every time he goes out,” he said.
“His three wins in Hong King were over the 1650m so we are looking at the (Group 1) Queen Elizabeth Cup (1800m) and the (Group 1) (Singapore) Gold Cup (2000m), but the 1200m (Lion City Cup) next Sunday will do him well heading forward.
“In saying that, he ran well first-up, he’s enjoying his work and trialled nicely this morning with (race jockey) Vlad up, so we expect him to run well in the Lion City (Cup).”
And what of the well-deserved break for the South African handler?
“Look, I haven’t caught up with mum and dad for over two years, my sister and her family for five years, so it was really a much-needed break and tons of fun.
“We did a lot of travelling – it was really busy – but it was great to be with family and even better to see the stable firing when I away.”
Indeed a race day double with King Louis and Senor Don on July 24 continued a tradition of sorts for the stable.
“Yes, when (boss and ex-Kranji trainer) Pat (Shaw) used to go away, I always seemed to manage to get a winner or two and now (assistant-trainer) Jacci (de Tert) has carried on the tradition.
“She’s the backbone of the stable – tough as nails but always there for everybody – and we are both part of the Pat’s system.”
Another that blossomed under the Shaw umbrella was former Kranji-based and stable jockey Barend Vorster, who took out the South Australian Metropolitan Jockeys’ Championship on July 31 when Le Grange was in the US.
“I’m so very proud,” said Le Grange of the jockey who steered the mighty Rocket Man to victory no less than seven times.
“Barend is like family to us all and we are all so happy for Nikki (wife) and Brendan (son).
“It was a big move but it paid off and it’s an amazing achievement.”