There is nothing new with trainer Ricardo Le Grange hogging half of the Chairman’s Trophy field on Sunday, going with his high rate of participation in such long distance feature races.
But the first-season trainer remained fully aware that strength in numbers does not always translate into victory in racing.
However, when one goes through each and every one of his five runners, Quechua, Time Odyssey, Storm Troops, Perfect P and Song To The Moon, there is a good indication a fourth Group win – and a third one over his middle-distance stronghold, a legacy from his former boss and mentor Patrick Shaw - may well be on the cards.
Quechua (Vlad Duric) lands the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup on June 4, picture Singapore Turf Club
Le Grange’s first ‘black-type’ success came in the Group 3 Fortune Bowl (2000m) with Big Brother. He then added Storm Troops’ dead-heat with War Affair in the Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes (1400m) and his highest acclaim, the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (1800m) with Quechua.
The South African does not think the $300,000 Group 2 race over 1800m is “cut and dried”, though. He was one of the impressed bystanders at the Tuesday barrier trials.
“Looking at the way War Affair trialled on Tuesday, you can’t forget him as the class horse in the race. He will be hard to beat if he shows that form on Sunday,” he said.
“The race is definitely not cut and dried even if I have a strong hand. There are a couple of horses who can beat us and War Affair is certainly one of them.”
Le Grange may be sending out a Coolmore-esque squad into the Chairman’s Trophy, but he knows their individual forms and merits back to front.
“All five horses are fit and well. I’m very happy with all five of them,” said Le Grange.
“I’m hoping for a bit of rain as we’ve had a bit of a dry spell and I think it wouldn’t harm any of my horses to have the sting out of the track.
“Quechua has had a faultless preparation since coming back from his QEII Cup win. His work has been good and he trialled well last Thursday.
“He had a grass gallop last Saturday week. I would say he has maintained his form since the QEII Cup, and the weight-for-age conditions of the Chairman’s Trophy are definitely to his advantage.”
While the Argentinian-bred multiple Group 1 winner will spearhead the quintet on Sunday, Le Grange is far from neglecting the form of the remaining runners.
“Storm Troops was at his first test over 1800m in the QEII Cup and did very well to run third. I was happy with his trial last Thursday (second to Ancient Warrior), and I expect a good run from him, too,” said Le Grange.
“Time Odyssey is a good, honest and gutsy horse. A bit of rain will definitely help his cause. Perfect P finally showed a return to form at his last start (flying second to Blue Swede in a Kranji Stakes A race over 1600m on July 9), and you can’t rule him out.
“The only one who on rating (80) and at weight-for-age, is out of the handicap is Song To The Moon. But I’ve done a gear change on him, the tongue-tie is off and the crossover noseband is on.
“He did a nice piece of workout this morning and even if it is at weight-for-age and he is not well-weighted, I expect him to run an improved race.”
Le Grange has stuck with the same last partner for the five horses, except for Song To The Moon who will for the first time have Panamanian-born jockey Oscar Chavez in the irons.
Barend Vorster, who rides Time Odyssey, for one could not be happier with the South African-bred Jet Master six-year-old.
“Time Odyssey had a nice gallop on Tuesday. He came out nice and all fit and well,” said the South African jockey.
“He was a bit disappointing at his last start (last to Blue Swede), but he’s coming back to form. He used to be a better Polytrack horse but with time, he can handle both turf and Polytrack now.
“If he gets a bit of luck in the running, he should go close.”
Le Grange’s other stable jockey Nooresh Juglall was also oozing confidence ahead of the Chairman’s Trophy. He rides Storm Troops, the Argentinian-bred six-year-old son of Orpen whom he steered to third place in the QEII Cup.
“The horse has been working good. He ran well at his first time over 1800m even though he had a bad draw (12),” said the Mauritian hoop.
“He has drawn better this time (5) and I think he will put in a big run.”