Freedman takes leap of faith with Iskandar for Tesoro ride

Malaysian apprentice jockey Iskandar Rosman may have yet to ride a winner, but that has not stopped his master Lee Freedman from entrusting him with the plum ride on Tesoro Privado on Friday night.

The 24-year-old four-kilo claimer was thrilled to bits he would be the one sitting aboard the impressive last-start winner in the $80,000 Kranji Stakes C race over 1600m.

At his first start for Freedman in a Class 3 race over 1400m on July 20, Tesoro Privado did not disappoint with Michael Rodd up, putting his 10 rivals to the sword with a three-length win. 

Apprentice jockey Iskandar Rosman aboard Bangkok Girl at the barrier trials on Wednesday, picture Singapore Turf Club

Raced by the Titanium Racing Stable, the Argentinian-bred four-year-old son of Orpen racked up his first three wins under the care of Ricardo Le Grange, also performing creditably in the last two Legs of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge for the South African handler. Along with eight other horses, Tesoro Privado moved to Freedman’s yard in June, becoming the first to seal the new partnership with victory (Enchanted Mister followed suit one week later).

In 36 rides since Iskandar got his licence earlier in the year, he has come close with five seconds – latest being $238 longshot One Force on July 27 - but Tesoro Privado is by far his first real chance at finally getting the monkey off his back.

It would be normal any young rookie would be a little overawed by such an opportunity, but Iskandar was trying his best not to show it.

“I’m really happy and excited to get such a good ride from the boss,” he said.

“I ride him in trackwork, and I can feel he is of a different class. He’s a very good horse, but there is no pressure, I will just go out there and try my best.”

Though still wet behind the ears, Iskandar already knows first-hand about the risks of his job. He just recently made his riding comeback after being out of the saddle for two months due to injuries suffered in a race fall on May 11.

He was in the lead aboard Marvel Hero in a Class 3 race over 1800m, but was hurled to the ground when the Freedman galloper broke down 150m from the winning post.

“I fractured my right finger, my left shoulder and collarbone,” said Iskandar who did his first apprenticeship with Penang trainer Jerome Tan before moving down South, first to Steven Burridge, then Laurie Laxon and finally Freedman.

“I went back to my mum’s place in KL and it took me two months to recover. It was tough, but I always wanted to come back.”

Freedman said he did not have to look too far for a rider when he saw Tesoro Privado’s 59.5kgs impost on Monday’s handicaps.

“Even if Michael was not committed to Cliff Brown’s horse (Magnificent Gold), I would have still looked for an apprentice for the weight relief. 59.5kgs is too heavy for Tesoro Privado,” said the current leading trainer.

“Iskandar just came back from injury. He’s been riding well and is in a position to win his first race.

“He came very close with One Force the other day. I spoke with Jeff (Soh of Titanium Racing Stable) and he was willing to give the kid a chance on Tesoro Privado.”

Freedman hopes the good vein of form he has struck with the Titanium Racing Stable continues with Tesoro Privado, even if a little disappointed odds-on favourite Nowyousee could only run second to Country Boss on Friday night. He, however, said the promising O’Reilly four-year-old had excuses.

“He played up before the start and lost two shoes in the race,” he said.

“He got stirred up for three-quarter of the race. We can forgive him for that race.”

In the same race as Tesoro Privado, Freedman also saddles the resuming pair of Excellency and Mr Dujardin, whom he is aiming at longer distance races later in the year. Likewise on Sunday, Chairman – who missed the cut in the Dester Singapore Gold Cup last year - in the Kranji Stakes A race over 1800m and Mr Spielberg in the Group 3 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) are also commencing their campaigns towards such races.

“Excellency is coming off a long break. I am fashioning a programme towards the (Group 3) El Dorado Classic (2000m on September 23) for him,” said Freedman.

“Ideally, he needs a longer journey, but he is fit and ready. Same thing for Mr Dujardin, he will be going for the longer races at the end of the year.

“On Sunday, Chairman and Mr Spielberg are all in the same boat. Chairman is first-up over the 1800m race and will probably need the run.

“He looks as good as he has ever been. He will also improve a lot from the run.

“Last year, he missed the Gold Cup and he is back from a spell as well. It’s actually hard to plan for those big races because we race the whole year and those horses can’t race all year.”