The Racing Club Makes It Look Easy

Big win for Ricardo Le Grange

Churchill proved to be an instant hit for Steve Levar’s rebranded racing outfit at Kranji on Friday night.

The former Singapore Turf Club race caller and current iRace Media CEO has been in the horse ownership game for a while, through the Stars & Stripes Stable (Macarthur, Air Force One, Vanderbilt to name a few from that team) and the Royalty Stable with Gr3 El Dorado Classic winner King Louis as its most famous resident, and is now the driving force behind a newly-created stable called The Racing Club or TRC in short.

Levar couldn’t have hoped for a better opening night with his very first TRC runner getting on the scoresheet.

Churchill (Vlad Duric) makes all at his second start in Kranji (Pic – Singapore Turf Club)

A former Sydney one-time winner when known as Front Sight and prepared by Newcastle trainer Kris Lees, Churchill had his first Singapore run under the Royalty banner in a Class 4 race over 1200m on February 1, running an encouraging second to Absolvido.

Well-backed into $17 second-up in the SG$50,000 Class 4 race over 1400m, Churchill (Vlad Duric) lived up to the promise by going one better, but not without having to dig deep into his tank to prevail.

From barrier No 14, the strapping galloper (577kgs) had to push forward as he went vying for the lead, but did look vulnerable when Bear Witness (Daniel Moor) loomed up while favourite Gentlemen Agreement (Louis-Philippe Beuzelin) was descending thick and fast on the outside.

But despite burning the candle at both ends, Churchill was giving strong signals he was not going to abdicate so easily. Under Duric’s relentless riding, the Smart Missile four-year-old found another gear hard up against the rails to repel Gentlemen Agreement’s challenge by three-quarter length.

Meryl (Alysha Collett) flew home late for third place another length away. The winning time was 1min 23.57secs for the 1400m on the Long Course.

“The TRC Stable is a boutique racing syndication with a more select group of people, and we are aiming the bigger races for the bigger money,” said Levar.

“Besides ownership opportunities, we also provide consultancy and bloodstock guidance and other horse racing related services. Currently, we have King Louis, Churchill and Sweet Angeline.(Trainer) Ricky (Le Grange) has done a great job with my horses, especially Churchill tonight. This horse will get even better as he gets out to 1600m and 1800m.”

While the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge is within the realms of possibility with the last two Legs over those two trips due on March 20 (Group 2 Stewards’ Cup) and April 18 (Group 1 Singapore Derby), he will need to see his ratings (currently on 64 but likely to go up after Friday’s win) rise further.

With the series brought forward by three months, it’s been an interesting debate about the shorter time available to meet the standards, with trainers requesting for a more performance-based set of criteria to make the cut rather than ratings-based.

Le Grange is among those who has been vocal about the issue, but would for now just enjoy that latest success – his seventh for 2020.

“It was a big win tonight. This horse will go further,” said the South African conditioner.

“I’m very happy with the run, it was also a good ride by Vlad. Big thanks to Steve.”

Duric said that the barrier was the main query going into the event, but when the challengers ranged upsides upon straightening, that was a bigger concern, but Churchill showed his qualities by defusing both threats with aplomb.

“The tricky barrier was always going to make things difficult. He jumped out well and had to work across, but when he started to bunny-hop stride, I was not sure about him,” said the three-time Singapore champion jockey.

“But when he got the rails, he came back underneath me and my confidence came back. It took a while for him to get going, it’s only when the other horse got level that he felt him and then, he got away ”

“The mile and the 1800m will be up his alley. He has the tactical speed and he is a big strong horse. He could be a Derby horse, whether he is up to the same level as Top Knight, I’m not so sure, but in any case, there will be many Weight-for-Age races for him.”

  • Singapore Turf Club

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