Punters looking to go out with a bang and some Christmas shopping money at the last Singapore race meeting didn’t quite get off to a merry start on Saturday.
The lucky few who had thrown some specking on $53 outsider Den Of Thieves (Manoel Nunes) in the opener, the $30,000 Excelling 2020 Stakes Class 5 Division 1 race had to endure a few anxious minutes with runner-up Cavallo Court (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) firing a protest but to their relief, the stewards threw it out.
The next event, the $75,000 Countofmontecristo 2019 Stakes Restricted Maiden race over 1400m, looked a wide open race, but even if it was run before an empty Kranji Grandstand, one could almost hear a pin drop at many homes (for those watching the races on TV or a laptop) around Singapore when $503 shot Sand Box (Krisna Thangamani) scored a blowout win.
Sand Box (Krisna Thangamani) kicks clear en route to a facile first win in Race 2, picture Singapore Turf Club
Unsighted at his five previous starts, be it from the tailend where he normally blends in or at the business end where he fails to make much ground, the Ricardo Le Grange-trained three-year-old was surprisingly prominent getting up on the girth of leader Sunset (Hakim Kamaruddin) this time.
Swinging for home, eyes were trained towards the chasing pack for anyone running on, especially the better-fancied contenders like Northern Star (Koh Teck Huat) or the other Le Grange, Dragon Tycoon (Simon Kok Wei Hoong), but it was the South African trainer’s least-backed member of his trio (he also saddled Blue Idol) who was stunningly showing no signs of abdicating.
If anything, he started to lengthen up as the winning post loomed, bolting up by 3 ½ lengths from Bingo Master (Wong Chin Chuen) with an exulting Krisna having obviously a better time than the shellshocked punters.
The other swoopers struggled to make any indent in the margin with the fading Sunset even holding on to third place another 2 ¾ lengths away.
Nineoneone (Iskandar Rosman) showed vast improvement to slice through late for fourth place another half-length away. The winning time was 1min 24.1secs for the 1400m on the Short Course.
Sand Box was among a batch of two-year-olds/three-year-olds prepared by Le Grange earlier this year, but did not show as much potential as the likes of Renzo, Everest or even Dragon Tycoon.
Nothing out of the ordinary off his recent form or trackwork could have hinted at a metamorphosis from the Australian-bred Needs Further three-year-old on Saturday, but if Le Grange would certainly not mind just adding one more stick to a tally that has now risen to 26 winners, there is one person who would, however, feel right on top of the word after the win, never mind if it came in a Restricted Maiden - Sand Box’s first-time owner Ferdinand Deypalan Dimaisip who was greeting his very first winner at Kranji.
The thicker end of the prizemoney has also boosted the Filipino's bank account by around $40,000.
On 26 winners, Le Grange leaps by two spots to seventh place on the Singapore trainer’s premiership already won by Mark Walker for his fourth champion trainer title. He later inched even closer to the Top 5 when Yes One Ball (Krisna Thangamani, $71) won the $30,000 Speedy Cat 2013 Stakes Class 5 race (1000m) to reach a final tally of 27 winners and sixth place on the log.
As for the punters, there were happier faces all round when $11 favourite Super Smart (Oscar Chavez) held off Basilisk (Kok) in the third race, the $50,000 Distinctive Darci 2018 Stakes Class 4 Division 1 race over 1200m.
Interestingly, the “Smart” money was on given that both winner and runner-up were the two Emergency Acceptors of the race - a rare occurrence for sure! The Young Keah Yong-trained Super Smart, a six-year-old by Big Brown, was the second standby starter and was registering his fifth win for more than $260,000 in stakes for the HKH No 2 Stable.