Rocket Star shoots down the Moon
Le Grange's prolific four-year-old wins clash with unbeaten Moon Face, set for $250,000 Group 2 EW Barker Trophy on Nov 15
It was touted as an exciting clash between the gutsy Rocket Star and twice-unbeaten Moon Face.
Many pundits could not draw a line between the two promising four-year-olds in Sunday's Class 3 Div 1 event over 1,200m on turf.
Impressed by his two swift wins on the Polytrack, punters made the Cliff Brown-trained Moon Face the $10 favourite over the Ricardo Le Grange-trained Rocket Star, who went off as the second fancy at $14.
The race went off as scripted, with Moon Face playing his familiar role in front.
Rocket Star shot up to hunt the grey speedster after overcoming the second-widest draw (No. 13).
The rest seemed to struggle to keep up the pace.
But, with a well-laid plan devised by his trainer to upstage Moon Face, Rocket Star came up to eyeball Moon Face on straightening.
After a battle royal, Rocket Star hit top gear at the 200m mark under champion jockey Vlad Duric to rocket away for a strong one-length victory in 1min 09.28sec.
Moon Face plugged on for as long as he could, but ended up sixth, beaten by three lengths.
It was left to the fast-finishing Charger (apprentice jockey Krisna Thangamani) to grab second place, ahead of Watch Out Boss (Benny Woodworth).
Like Inferno's feat in Sunday's $400,000 Group 1 Lion City Cup, Rocket Star also came back from the unfavourable 1,600m to the 1,200m task.
The difference then and now was he was ridden more positively, instead of being saved up for one final lunge.
Le Grange reasoned that it would be to his horse's detriment if he were to take up his customary rearward spot in a sprint race, especially with Moon Face expected to lead the charge.
"It was a very satisfying win for a lot of reasons," said the South African.
"Firstly, for the horse himself, as he's just been a bit unlucky, bumping into Inferno. He still ran a great second to him in the Singapore Guineas.
"He deserved to crack it for a win again just to get his confidence back.
"It's also great for the owner, Tatay (father in tagalog) Rudy (Mendoza), and his son Paolo. They are thorough gentlemen.
"And, for Vlad, who also rode a great race. We also worked out a plan today, and it's paid off.
"From the wide draw, we definitely had to go forward, as he was dropping back to sprint and we know the favourite will go quick.
"But the track's also been riding very fast and we didn't want to get caught too far back."
Le Grange will for now take his time to soak in that fourth win from the Star Witness four-year-old.
But that does not mean he will let him rest on his laurels either.
"I may look at the EW Barker for him. I'll have to discuss with Rudy and Paolo first," he said.
The $250,000 Group 2 EW Barker Trophy is a handicap feature race over 1,400m on Nov 15.
Rocket Star has now built up a smart record of four wins, eight seconds and one third from 14 starts.
He has won nearly $350,000 in stakes for his connections.