Le Grange confident with 3YO Sprint duo

With a final field of only nine runners in the Group 3 Singapore Three-Year-Old Sprint (1200m) at Kranji on Saturday, trainer Ricardo Le Grange reckoned both Ace Of Diamonds and Strike Gold have good chances of winning the highlight race.

Eight of the initial 17 entries have been withdrawn from the final handicaps released on Monday, including nice three-year-olds like Lim’s Bighorn, Tennet Tentennet and Stop The Water, but Le Grange’s pair were ready to roll.

Rated at 67 and 58 points respectively, Ace Of Diamonds and Strike Gold are the two highest-rated three-year-olds out of nine in the South African handler’s yard and Le Grange believed in their abilities to snag the big prize after promising runs in their races.

Strike Gold seen here getting the better of stablemate Ace Of Diamonds (No 2) at his debut win in a Restricted Maiden race on 15 July 2023, picture Singapore Turf Club

After his first win in a Restricted Maiden race (1200m) in September last year, Ace Of Diamonds won two more times and placed twice. The son of Swiss Ace last ran second to Makin at his first Class 3 test over 1400m on 24 February.

Strike Gold beat Ace Of Diamonds into second when he won on debut in a Restricted Maiden race (1200m) in July last year, followed by his second win in a Novice race (1200m) three starts ago on 14 January, which sparked the idea of running him in the 3YO feature races.

“I was very happy with their trials last Tuesday (Ace Of Diamonds won and Strike Gold ran third in the same trial). (Jockey) Bruno (Queiroz) will ride Ace Of Diamonds and (jockey) Carlos (Henrique) will ride Strike Gold this Saturday,” said Le Grange on Tuesday.

“That was a very good run by Ace Of Diamonds at his last start. The winner, Makin, went on to frank his form when he won last Saturday.

“From what I’ve seen, he’s (Ace Of Diamonds) an easy horse to ride in races. His running pattern would largely depend on the gate and the pace.

“He galloped with Bruno on yesterday morning and all’s good with him (Ace Of Diamonds).

“Assuming all goes well, he will go for the next two races too.”

Le Grange was referring to the Group 2 Singapore 3YO Classic (1400m) on 27 April and the Group 2 Singapore Guineas (1600m) on 18 May.

In comparison, Strike Gold needed more coaxing when it came to getting the best out of him in races.

“He’s got a lot of ability, but just mentally not 100% right yet,” Le Grange said of the son of Iffraaj, who was gelded since his pre-training days in Australia.

“He needed a lot of things to go in his favour in the races. He even beat Ace Of Diamonds in his early days. Although he’s not the easiest to ride, he has improved.

“He was a bit unlucky at his last two starts. Previously (in a Class 4 Division 2 race over 1200m on 17 February), he missed the jump but ran home very powerfully.

“The 1000m at his last start (in a Class 4 race on 9 March when he ran second) was on the shorter side for him but if he had drawn a good gate, I believed he would have won.

“It’s more tempo-related for him. As long as he travels in a good position, he will normally sit, but just a bit trickier to ride.

“I had the 3YO (feature) races in mind for him after his last win, but at the moment, I think the mile might be a bit too far for him. The 1200m (Singapore 3YO Sprint) and 1400m (Singapore 3YO Classic) are up his alley, but we’ll see how things go before we consider the (Singapore) Guineas.

“It’s an open race this time and it can be quite tricky with a small field, but both my horses will be thereabouts.”

Meanwhile, Le Grange will take it easy this week with only three runners at the 10-race meeting. His third runner, Renzo, will back up in the $70,000 Class 3 race (1000m) after running fifth to Lim’s Kosciuszko in a Kranji Stakes A race (1200m) two weeks ago.

“He’s down in class but very fit. We just kept him happy this week,” he said.

“Bruno will ride him again.”