Curatolo rides two winners at flying visit

Ryan Curatolo, the Frenchman who rides with a distinct American style, came, saw and certainly conquered Singapore.

Booked for four rides, exclusively for trainer Kuah Cheng Tee, the Macau-based 25-year-old, who was at his first ever Kranji experience, delivered with panache by booting home two of them – Golden Spark and Eden Garden – at his one-day cameo.

Unplaced on his first ride Aeolus in Race 4, the $35,000 Open Maiden race over 1200m, Curatolo bounced straight right back at his next ride, Golden Spark, in the very next race, the $35,000 Class 5 race over 1000m.

Golden Spark gives jockey Ryan Curatolo his first win in Singapore on Friday, picture Singapore Turf Club

Sent out as the $15 favourite, the US-bred three-year-old by Munnings was always in the gun spot, third on the rails before being peeled out for his run upon straightening.

Crouching low in the saddle and pushing out in a rhythmic motion while flicking the whip at every other stride, in pure transatlantic style, Curatolo was well on his way to his first taste of victory at Kranji as Golden Spark kept up a sustained run to go and post a one-length win from Sun Seeker (Azhar Ismail) with Rikioh (Chin Chee Seng) third another half-a-length away. The winning time was 59.22 seconds for the 1000m speed dash on Polytrack.

Two events later, Curatolo was getting a leg-up on another favourite, Eden Garden in the $35,000 Class 5 Division 2 race over 1400m, and again showcased his skills with another well-judged win, especially as it was carved out under more testing circumstances.

Just like stablemate Golden Spark, Eden Garden was the punters’ pick at $22 even if his stats read 20 starts for zero win up till then. Whether it was that Curatolo X-factor that can sometimes catch on when there is a bit of a buzz from an earlier win for such newcomers, nothing is for certain, but Curatolo’s smile was certainly even broader after 1min 23.81secs.

At the 400m, Eden Garden’s chances of finally giving the Speed No 3 Stable a chance to head down for a first lead-in looked up in smoke as he still spotted the leaders around five lengths, and seemingly mired in traffic.

But Curatolo patiently waited until the last 300m to extract the best from the Thorn Park six-year-old, who was inclined to hang out badly in the home straight.

With the head pointing towards the standside, Eden Garden did not seem to be working in sync with his rider while upfront Darci’s Boy (Manoel Nunes) could not have had a more charmed run as he hit the front, full of running.

But once Curatolo was able to get Eden Garden on his right diagonal, it was clear as day which way the race was going. Ghosting past his rivals one by one, the chestnut gelding shot to the front on his way to record a comfortable 1 ¼-length win from Darci’s Boy with Eden Garden’s stablemate Super Big (Ng Choon Kiat) third another three parts of a length away. The winning time was 1min 23.81secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.

The French words “C’est magnifique!” (it's magnificent in French) were etched all over the Marseille native’s face as he weighed in with a big thumbs-up to the skies for his second winner and a strike rate of 50%.

His goal was to ride at least one winner at what he saw as a possible gateway to a new career. Now he was heading to Japan to commence a new two-month stint with a memorable double, which he hoped would put him in good stead for a longer-term contract at Kranji in the near future.

“This is wonderful. Better than I thought it would be,” said Curatolo after his brace.

“I’m very delighted with such an amazing first day in Singapore. One was great, but two is unreal.

“I’m very thankful to the Singapore Turf Club and my main sponsor CT Kuah for the support, not to forget Mr Alan Teo who is the one who introduced me to Singapore racing.”

Curatolo, who boasts more than 300 wins to his credit, split between his former base of America and current base of Macau, was also pleased his off-the-cuff assessment of his quartet of rides after sitting on them at trackwork on Thursday morning proved right on the money.

“I did think Golden Spark and Eden Garden were my two best chances and they didn’t disappoint,” said Curatolo who recently won one of Macau’s biggest races, the Grade 1 Macau Gold Cup with Bo Bo So Cute in July.

“With Golden Spark, I wanted to go to the front, but I had to take him back as they went quite fast in front.

“It all worked out well in the end as the horse was well trained and I was just the one sitting on him.

“Eden Garden had a nice run with cover at the back, but once I went looking for daylight, he took a while to get on his right leg.

“I also hesitated to hit him as I didn’t want him to lose his focus, but once he got it together, he just flew in. I knew I couldn’t lose at the 200m.

“It’s a great feeling. I would certainly like to come back to Singapore after this first great experience.”

Teo, who led in both Curatolo-ridden winners, could not be happier his favourite jockey had enjoyed a better-than-expected haul at Kranji.

“I follow Macau racing and always liked Ryan as a jockey. I’ve been trying to get him to come and ride here for a while,” said Kuah’s former owner.

“People tend to think Macau jockeys are not of a good standard but Ryan proved today it’s a myth. He’s got a very good style and is strong in a finish.”

Kuah for one could not agree more. The second-year Singaporean handler could not wait to see Curatolo back on his horses one day, should the licensing committee give him the nod again.

“Ryan’s an outstanding jockey. We could see that especially on Eden Garden,” he said.

“No jockey had ever been able to win on Eden Garden as he’s not an easy horse to ride, but Ryan got it right at the first ride. He’s a horse who needs a firm track as well.

“As for Golden Spark, he was in the right Class. He’s had issues at the gates and we had to give him plenty of practice, which has now paid off.”