Rocket Star better than Pennywise
That's trainer Ricardo Le Grange's assessment of his exciting 2YO after his victory in class-record time
Trainer Ricardo Le Grange is one happy man.
His new batch of horses is firing and it will be interesting time ahead for the Kranji-based South African.
On Friday, his two-year-old Golden Dash stepped up on his debut third to score impressively, with promises of more wins to come.
Then, on Sunday, Le Grange unearthed what he reckoned to be a better juvenile in the aptly named Rocket Star.
His chestnut Australian-bred gelding by Star Witness showed heaps of potential with his mesmerising turn of foot, which powered him to a new class record in just his second race.
An unlucky short-head runner-up on debut when checked, Rocket Star galloped away on Sunday to take the $75,000 Open race for two-year-olds in 1min 04.95sec for the Polytrack 1,100m. This was 0.41sec faster than the time recorded by Dark Matter on March 20, 2011.
Sunday's race, called the Thoroughbred Breeders Australia Centenary Stakes, was the second leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe Series, which culminates in the $250,000 Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe over 1,200m on turf on July 19.
South African jockey Callan Murray pushed Rocket Star forward after the jump to match motors with smart debut winner Admiral Winston and Emperor Taizong, the first emergency acceptor who secured a berth following a few scratchings.
As they settled down after a couple hundred metres, Emperor Taizong led by about a length from newcomer Pattaya, an impressive trial winner and joint $14 favourite with Rocket Star.
Newcomers Beauty Diva and More Than Oil were close up next, but a little wide. They were followed by Admiral Winston and Rocket Star eye-balling each other.
At the halfway point, Emperor Taizong held a slim lead over Pattaya and More Than Oil. Murray was behind, sandwiched between Admiral Winston and Beauty Diva.
Pattaya dashed to the front turning for home. Admiral Winston moved up to tackle him. Murray angled Rocket Star to the outside but received a bump from More Than Oil.
As Pattaya weakened 300m out, Admiral Winston grabbed the lead. But not for long. Murray brought Rocket Star up to challenge. After a short tussle, Rocket Star rocketed away to win by 23/4 lengths.
Le Grange said he put Rocket Star's unlucky first-up run behind, knowing his horse has immense ability. He even reckoned his new charge is a better horse than Pennywise, his five-time winner and fourth place-getter in the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe last year.
"I think I was pretty confident in saying that he's a better horse than Pennywise. You know, I hate to compare horses, but he's just showed me that he's a real smart little horse," said Le Grange.
"All in all, I think he beat a nice field of horses and, you know, obviously we'll bring him back for the big one. And, yeah, I think he can be a smarter three-year-old, this horse."
Le Grange was also pumped up by the fact that Rocket Star had shown greater potential than Golden Dash in training.
"Well, you know, when that little horse of mine won on Friday night, I was pretty confident because this horse beat him by seven lengths first-up in the trial," he said.
"I know the second horse had won on Friday night and he's improving. But this horse always had the measure of him, you know, and I thought that was a pretty smart field there and he beat them all as well.
"So I'm sort of getting a little bit of formline with these young horses and look man, I'm super happy that I've got a nice bunch of horses and I've got owners that trust and have confidence in me, and let's go from here."