Kranji has been graced by quite a few winners of the Durban July Handicap over the years – but only jockeys and trainers, shall we hasten to qualify.
Robbie Fradd, Anthony Delpech, Greg Cheyne, Bernard Fayd’Herbe are some of the riding alumni of the Greyville classic over 2,200m, and among the trainers, Patrick Shaw, of course, who won with Teal, ridden by Johnny Geroudis – another ex-Kranji jockey – in 1995, and very soon, newly-licensed Joey Ramsden, who trained The Conglomerate to capture South Africa’s biggest race in 2016.
But Singapore can now claim the bragging rights to having on its shores the main hero to pull off the feat itself – the horse.
Durban July winner Marinaresco has settled nicely into his new Kranji surroundings.
Marinaresco, the winner of the 2017 renewal as a 14-1 shot when prepared by Candice Bass-Robinson and ridden by Fayd’Herbe, is the first Durban July winner to be imported to Singapore, and will be racing under the care of Ricardo Le Grange.
The son of Silvano, who just turned seven, joined the South African trainer’s yard from Dubai on June 4, and has just started getting ready for that new chapter of his stellar racing career, with the Gr1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) on November 10 the ultimate target.
Le Grange is honoured one of South Africa’s most prominent owners and good friend Marsh Shirtliff along with son Guy have entrusted him with such a precious charge.
The Shirtliffs are no stranger to Singapore racing, having already got a few horses running in their name, with Captain Jamie the standout – and more significantly, being one of the part-owners of 2008 Singapore Airlines International Cup winner Jay Peg.
“It was always on the cards for Marinaresco to come here after Dubai,” said Le Grange.
“He’s obviously a very good horse and it’s very exciting to have him here in our stables.
“He’s raced by a bunch of enthusiastic owners. Nothing would give me more pleasure to see him win races for them here.”
Le Grange is, however, taking it one step at a time with the six-time winner – who was given a rating of 113 points – including two at Group 1 level. Marinaresco also claimed the Group 1 Champions Cup (1800m) at Greyville in 2016.
“Unfortunately, he had a minor setback when he arrived here, and that delayed his programme. I’ve slowly got him back and he’s doing okay now,” said Le Grange.
“He just started light work, and obviously, there is still a long way to go. I myself am still trying to work him out.
“He was sent here with the Gold Cup in mind, but we would of course like to have a run or two for him before that race.”
Prior to coming to Singapore, Marinaresco raced four times in Dubai under champion trainer Mike de Kock’s care – all in Group 2 races – but didn’t meet with much joy. At his last start, he finished fifth to Godolphin’s 2018 Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter in the Dubai Gold Cup (3200m), beaten around 12 lengths.