Desperate to give owner and good friend Guy Shirtliff the perfect birthday present on Friday night, trainer Ricardo Le Grange was glad Captain Jamie was able to help him deliver on his promise.
He had planned two of Shirtliff’s runners, Captain Jamie and Splinter, to both race on that night – one day before the South African owner turns 35.
After Splinter ($41) came agonisingly close when a head-second to favourite Eye Guy in Race 5, Le Grange had all his hopes resting squarely on Captain Jamie in the penultimate event, the $80,000 Class 3 Division 1 race over 1200m.
Captain Jamie (Nooresh Juglall) bears down on Red Dawn (Matthew Kellady, obscured) for a narrow win, picture Singapore Turf Club
Though backed down to $13 favouritism, Captain Jamie was not entirely bombproof, having often let Le Grange and Shirtliff down in the past, as recently as last Sunday when he ran third as the $16 favourite in a Class 3 Division 2 race over 1400m.
If the Captain Sonador four-year-old named after Shirtliff’s son lost again, then the two birthday present plans would have both bombed, meaning Le Grange would have to go shopping for a more conventional one in Orchard Road or somewhere.
In the end, he was spared the headache after Captain Jamie came with a well-timed run under jockey Nooresh Juglall to nab a very determined party-pooper in Red Dawn (Matthew Kellady) by a short head.
Made In China (Craig Grylls) tried to make all but shortened stride inside the last 200m. He still battled on gamely to hold on to third place another 2 ¾ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 11.68secs.
“There is a saying which goes ‘you are either a king or you’re a clown’. I could have been the other one if we had got beaten, but I’m glad it worked out well,” said a relieved Le Grange.
“I was baffled by his last run on Sunday, but maybe he just needed the run.
“More importantly, he won tonight and it’s a nice present for Guy who celebrates his birthday tomorrow. Nooresh also rode a cracker of a race.”
After coming close with Splinter, Shirtliff could not wait to head down to unwrap the early present.
“Ricardo threw two bullets for my birthday, Splinter and Captain Jamie. One of them succeeded,” he said.
“Thanks to Ricardo for delivering!”
Juglall also felt a big load off his shoulders after the nail-biting finish went his way.
“I wanted to win that race so badly for Guy, especially after losing narrowly with Splinter earlier, as it’s his birthday tomorrow,” said the Mauritian jockey.
“We rated this horse highly at his last run, but I think the wide draw and the Long Course worked against him. He’s got only a little burst.
“Everything worked out well tonight. At the top of the straight, we got the gap, but he took a while to wind up.
“That tells me he’s more of a 1400m horse than a 1200m horse, but in the end we got the other horse right on the line.
“Happy birthday, Guy!”