Trainer Stephen Gray may be fresh off a “Rugby World Cup spell”, but it was not so much the case for his two runners, Prioritize and February in the SG$50,000 Class 4 race over 2000m at Kranji on Saturday, 18 November.
Prioritize, in particular, has the miles under his belt.
The five-year-old son of Proisir had 15 starts this year thus far and his last five runs were all over 1700m or longer.
His most recent win was over nine furlongs in a Class 4 race on 14 October and while he has yet to win over 2000m, Gray suggested it was a case of “the longer, the better” for the New Zealand-bred gelding.
“He wants longer for sure,” said Gray.
“We stepped him up in distance pretty early in his career and he broke his maiden over 1700m in a Class 5 race on 28 January.
“That win and his next win, in a Class 4 race over 1800m on 18 March, were both on the Polytrack but I think he is better on the turf at this level.
“To be honest, I reckon he would be better over 2400m or more, he’d be a great Country Cup horse back home, but those races don’t happen here.
“So, races like this over 2000m will see his best in my opinion. He won the other day over 1800m, but the longer the race, the more genuine he gets. He’s been up all year and turns up for every race, so he’s a good horse to have in the stable.
“Jockey Harry A’Isisuhairi Kasim will stay on, let him find his feet and he should run well again.”
Like Prioritize, Gray thought February (x Sacred Falls) will very much appreciate the step-up to 2000m and is excited about what the future holds for the four-year-old gelding in 2024.
“February might be a Singapore Gold Cup horse next year,” said Gray, who won the 2016 edition of the Gr1 race with Bahana.
“He’s a stayer for sure. We nominated him this year for the Gold Cup because he won a race or two before November and could sneak in with 50kgs, but that was just a free throw at the stumps.
“So, I’m excited to get him over 2000m. Horses like him want to stay and I say let them stay. He won his maiden race over the mile in a Restricted Maiden race on 6 May and while he battled last start over the same trip in a Class 4 race on 21 October, he might not have handled the rain-affected track.
“Jockey Vlad Duric has ridden him before and it’s good to have him back on Saturday. Duric has won a lot of races for me, more than any other jockey I think, and I will leave the tactics to Vlad.
“It’s a small field of eight but a good one. I think both my horses will run well.”
Of Gray’s other runners on Saturday, the Kiwi hoped Billy Elliot can show his best in the SG$30,000 Class 5 race over 1200m for loyal owner Paul Hickman.
“Billy Elliot looked the winner the other day when he dropped in grade,” said Gray, who was referring to the son of Per Incanto’s fourth to Zygarde in the Class 5 race on 28 October.
“So obviously, Class 5 is what he needs to win and it’s just a matter of carrying the weight (58.5kgs). He got his confidence back at his last start and jockey Marc Lerner gets on well with him.
“It would be great to win again for Paul, owner of St George Stable. We had a win together in Australia, Hawkesbury, on 9 November, with Anderson Bridge, but Hickman hasn’t got many left in Singapore.
“He has been my most loyal and most successful owner. Paul will support me to the end, so hopefully Billy Elliot can add another win to our tally.”
Of his recent French sojourn, Gray combined two of his pleasures in the extended holiday in Paris.
“We planned the holiday last year and it was two weeks originally,” he explained.
“But the All Blacks got on a run in the World Cup and we extended our stay to watch the final.
“Unfortunately, the ‘TMO’ (Television Match Official) costed us the final. We played with 14 men which was a big ask.
“We have a small team now, so it was good to get away with (wife) Bridget. We stayed with Renee and Ryan Backer – who had horses in Singapore with us – and it was a very enjoyable holiday.”