Storm Troops eases pain for Le Grange
Day of mixed fortunes for first-season trainer
STORM TROOPS justified the confidence heaped on him by taking out the $125,000 Kranji Stakes A race over 1,200m on Sunday.
However, it was only after giving his battalion of backers a brief scare close home.
The Argentinian-bred son of Orpen looked home and hosed for jockey Barend Vorster at the 200m mark but Famous Artist, the mount of champion apprentice CC Wong, made it interesting when he unleashed a withering run on the outside.
But the $11 favourte kept knuckling down and was able to scrape home by a neck, clocking a smart time of 1min 09.25sec.
Lincoln Road took third, two-and-a-quarter lengths behind.
First-season trainer Ricardo Le Grange was probably not paying too much attention to the timing, though, as to him, the win was all that mattered, especially after the yard was dealt a big blow in Race 3 when MIGHTY GLORY broke down at the 700m mark and was euthanised.
Le Grange's apprentice jockey, MM Firdaus, fell, but luckily suffered only a few bruises, which still forced him to give up his remaining rides for the day.
The other stable jockey, Nooresh Juglall, who would have normally been aboard Storm Troops, also took a tumble last Sunday, and is reported to be returning to riding sooner than thought.
"The terrible accident to Mighty Glory affected us, and my heart goes to his owners Mark and Emily. You never want to see such things happening," said the South African handler.
"Luckily, Firdaus was not seriously hurt and the other good news is Nooresh has been cleared to ride and should be back riding trackwork tomorrow. So, that win from Storm Troops has come at the right moment.
"He has loads of ability even if he has so many problems. That's why I have to plan his races carefully."
The Group 2 Merlion Trophy over 1,200m on March 5 is three weeks away and could be a possible first "black type" assignment for the Fred Crabbia-owned galloper - as long as he holds up well.
"It'll depend how he pulls up before deciding whether he will run in the Merlion Trophy," said Le Grange.
"But I would not be scared to run him on the Polytrack. He's won on it early in his career."
Le Grange was actually referring to Storm Troops' first two wins from as many starts when he was then partnered by Vorster, before Juglall became his more regular pilot.
"I rode him early in his career and right back then, his class showed," said Vorster. "He's always shown ability since and he's shown it again today."
Vorster certainly rode Storm Troops like he was the best horse in the field when they settled two pairs back before drawing first blood as the field went full bore at the 400m mark.
The coast looked clear inside the last 200m, but Famous Artist, who was blocked for a run for a few strides, was finishing at a rate of knots once he got into the clear down the middle of the homestretch. But the winning post came up too soon over the short course.
Storm Troops has now won seven from 13 starts and has taken his earnings to nearly $400,000.