Le Grange has big-race team in tip-top shape

Trainer Ricardo Le Grange’s Thursday mornings are always busy, but particularly more so this time around, one week before Kranji’s biggest rendezvous of the year.

Seven from his team of 10 horses at the barrier trials are slated to run in the three Group 1 events at Singapore’s mega night of racing on May 26.

To recap, the second-year handler saddles Majestic Moments and Iron Man in the anchor race, the $1.5 million Invitational Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m), Rafaello and Mr Fantastic in the $1 million Lion City Cup (1200m), and Tesoro Privado, King Louis, Captain Jamie and Eagle Eye in the $1 million Singapore Guineas (1600m). Only Rafaello did not trial on Thursday, but he still came out for a gallop.

Nooresh Juglall brings Argentinian-bred Tesoro Privado back to scales after his barrier trial on Thursday, picture Singapore Turf Club

Being at the helm of a big yard, and having had plenty of exposure to such large-scale operations during his days as right-hand man to Patrick Shaw, Le Grange is used to shouldering such massive responsibility on a weekly basis.

Still, the sheer volume of runners in three glittering events worth more than $3 million between them, could give way to the jitters a little more, but the South African horseman was as cool and composed as ever.

He can afford to be. A noted tough taskmaster with an eye for detail, Le Grange knows these horses to a fault, maybe a little less for relative newcomer Eagle Eye, and with their lead-up campaign having gone without a hitch, he knows he has left no stones unturned.

The Thursday trials might have been the usual routine Le Grange gives to top off his big-race runners, but they were still a bit of “do-or-die” for a couple of them.

“I needed to see how Mr Fantastic ran in his trial today, and I have to say I’m very happy with the way he went. He will definitely run in the Lion City Cup,” said Le Grange.

“Barend sat off him in second and when he gave him a squeeze he strode away nicely. Rafaello didn’t need a trial as he has maintained his form and did a good gallop this morning.

“I also liked the way Majestic Moments trialled. He won from Iron Man who also went good.

“I’m bringing Majestic Moments fresh and he’s come back good. Iron Man has been showing solid form and also deserves his spot in the race.”

Mr Fantastic and Majestic Moments have not been running up to their best of late while Iron Man will be at a huge jump in class, but Le Grange is rolling the dice.

After one win early in January, Mr Fantastic, a South African-bred by Jet Master, has shown ordinary form in three Group 3 races while Majestic Moments has not won for more than two years and his heyday as nearly big-race gatecrasher are long gone. The rising seven-year-old by Darci Brahma came within a whisker of glory in two Group 1 races and one Group 2 race.

On 90 points, Iron Man, an Argentinian-bred five-year-old by Hidden Truth is the lowest-rated among the 14 Kranji Mile contenders (including three from Hong Kong and New Zealand), but is a progressive sort going through his grades.

If Le Grange was to snare any of the three glamour events, the Singapore Guineas would be the frontrunner. A blanket can be thrown over his foursome, never mind if none of them won the first two Legs (Be Bee and Mister Yeoh were the first two victors, but they were for most of them thereabouts) of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, of which the Guineas is the grand final.

It would have been another Le Grange queue-up in Thursday’s trial if not for Cliff Brown’s speedy grey Zac Kasa (Craig Grylls) who dictated throughout. Tesoro Privado (Nooresh Juglall), Captain Jamie (Alan Munro), King Louis (Barend Vorster) and Eagle Eye (Daniel Moor) finished in that order, all with their Guineas race-riders aboard.

“All four trialled well. Their jockeys are happy with them, and I’m sure they will come on good from that,” said Le Grange.

“Depending on their weights, I will decide if they gallop on Monday or Tuesday. I will monitor their weights till then.

“That should top them off nicely ahead of the big race.”