While a case could be made that the SG$110,000 Gr3 Colonial Chief Stakes at Kranji on Saturday was an afterthought for some horses, you get the impression trainer Ricardo Le Grange had Bestseller pencilled in for the Polytrack feature a long way out.
An early nominee before bypassing the Gr1 Singapore Gold Cup on 11 November, Bestseller is the only horse that brings winning form into the feature.
He won back-to-back Class 3 races, albeit over 1400m and 1600m on 7 October and 11 November respectively.
While those two wins were on turf, the son of Dream Ahead also scored once on the Polytrack after he beat a handy Novice field over 1200m on 18 February.
Furthermore, the promising Australian-bred four-year-old will carry only 52.5kgs in the Colonial Chief Stakes – and he will jump from gate one for good measure. It would look like Le Grange has all his ducks neatly in a row.
“Colonial Chief Stakes was always at the back of my mind,” said the South African conditioner.
“We won this race a couple of times with Pennywise and Johnny Guitar, when he was an assistant-trainer to ex-Kranji trainer Pat Shaw in 2014, and thought the race would suit Bestseller, profile-wise.
“The Singapore Gold Cup came up a bit too soon for him. Bestseller would have to step up from 1400m to 2000m, which wouldn’t have been fair to the horse.
“So, we ran him over the mile on Gold Cup day and I thought his win was exceptional. Jockey Vlad Duric was very complimentary of him after the race and he gave me the confidence that the Colonial Chief Stakes was ideal with just 52.5kgs.”
Unfortunately, the light weight would rule out the four-time champion jockey from riding Bestseller this time, but Le Grange was happy to have booked another Australian jockey, Ronnie Stewart for Saturday’s assignment.
“Duric couldn’t make the weight but I’m very happy to have Ronnie riding,” he continued.
“I will discuss the race with Stewart before Saturday, but from gate one, he will have to make a decision on where to ride him after they jump. You engage the good jockeys for a reason and trust their judgement.
“You have to respect the opposition, we always do, but my horse is in good order and looks suited, so hopefully Ronnie can get the job done.”
Moving forward, Le Grange reckons Bestseller has plenty more to offer in the next season with the Gr1 Singapore Derby on 21 July pencilled in and a possible tilt at the Grand Singapore Gold Cup on 5 October.
“He will be four, so the Singapore Derby is definitely a race we will target him at,” he said of the Leonardo Javier-owned gelding.
“And the Gold Cup. Bestseller keeps on improving with maturity, so I think we will see a better horse next year.
“He was very immature early on in his career, but he hasn’t done much wrong since. He ran second in all three legs of the Singapore Three-Year-Old series (the Gr3 Singapore 3YO Sprint over 1200m, the Gr2 Singapore 3YO Classic over 1400m and the Gr1 Singapore Guineas over 1600m) and obviously, he has plenty of ability.
“He had excuses not to win one of those races and we are still learning how to ride him, so it’s pretty exciting.”
While Bestseller will have plenty of admirers and may even start as favourite in the last running of the Colonial Chief Stakes, Le Grange seemed to have plenty of value options elsewhere on the 12-race meeting.
“With some luck on Saturday, I think a few of mine could run okay at odds,” he said.
“Both Great Command (running in the SG$50,000 Nova Strike 2017 Stakes, a Class 4 Division 2 race over 1200m) and Strike Gold (lining up in the SG$50,000 Zac Influence 2011 Stakes, a Class 4 Division 1 race over 1200m) look like good lightweight chances.
“Great Command (x Air Force Blue) likes to lead but he had some wide gates to contend with at his recent runs, so I expect him to run well from gate five.
“Strike Gold (x Iffraaj) had no luck at his last start (ran fourth in a Novice race over 1400m on 11 November) but ran on well. He’s not the full package yet and has a bit to learn, but I have a lot of time for this horse.
“Central Luzon (x American Pharoah) should improve in her race (SG$20,000 Daniel 2016 Stakes, a Maiden race over 1400m) too. She had excuses at her last start (in an Open Maiden race over 1200m on 16 September) and I thought her run was good.
“She’s very soft, very immature, but I think 1400m will suit. Hopefully, she runs well as she’s a lovely filly.”
Great Command and Central Luzon will be ridden by Le Grange’s apprentice jockey Rozlan Nazam while Strike Gold will partner jockey Vitor Espindola for the first time.