Bookmark and Share
Southern Dragon gives Le Grange first winner
Michael Lee

While most thought newly-licensed trainer Ricardo Le Grange would bring up his first career winner at his first day at the office on January 1 given the strong team of 13 horses he was sending out, he in the end kept the champagne on ice until the second day with Southern Dragon.


The 43-year-old South African, who has taken over the reins from his mentor Patrick Shaw, had his baptism of fire on New Year’s Day with potential first winners like Cadet and Perfect P as part of his heavy artillery, but both fell by the wayside. Le Grange did come close with two seconds namely Siamese Cat and Big Brother (New Year Cup), but to his disappointment and that of his fans, there was to be no Cinderella start.


Not to worry. Le Grange still had eight more bullets for the next day, and runner No 17 Southern Dragon was the one who will officially go down as the first Le Grange winner in history – while etching an indelible memory in the mind of the trainer himself.

Southern Dragon (Nooresh Juglall) gives new trainer Ricardo Le Grange his first hurrah in Race 8.

“I’m too emotional to speak. What can I say, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for for a long time,” was a speechless Le Grange’s first reaction as he came down to the winner’s circle, a place he has visited countless times in the Shaw era, but for the first time in his own right, surrounded by his brother Daniel and fiancée and close friends.


“I feel so grateful and humble now. I have to thank Pat and Wendy, my mum and dad who are here in Singapore but not at the races, my brother Daniel and my sister-in-law to be who are here with me at the races.


“I also thank my assistant Jacci de Tert, all my staff, track riders and syces, and of course the Singapore Turf Club for giving me this chance to live my dream.”


On his first winner, Le Grange, who led the smart Turffontein three-year-old in at his debut win in a Restricted Maiden race over 1200m, but still as Shaw’s right-hand man, said he was a useful horse on the way up.


“He’s a smart horse and did it in style,” he said. “Nooresh rode him very well and I have to thank him as well for being an integral part of the team.”


Just like Barend Vorster and apprentice jockey Mohd Firdaus, the Mauritian jockey has made the seamless transition from Shaw to Le Grange, and was looking forward to more winners for the dynamic duo.


“A big thank you to Ricardo who has been supporting me from Day 1 and I’m glad I’m the one who gave him his first winner,” said Juglall, who was incidentally at his first winner back from a short Hong Kong trip where he did not ride any winners.


“I must also thank him and the whole team for doing all the hard work at the stable while I was in Hong Kong.


“This horse is a miler-stayer type of horse but he’s still very green. With the rain, I was a bit worried he wouldn’t handle it but he did very well.


“The fast pace suited him and he showed a very nice turn of foot to score his second win from two.”


Odds-on favourite Ace King (Firdaus) took the lead halfway through the 1400m of the $75,000 Novice race before drawing clear for a big break at the 600m.


It may have been a premature move as he started to show signs of weary legs before the home turn, and he was duly gobbled up with ease by Southern Dragon ($18), who pushed clear to score by two-and-a-quarter length from Ace King with Cerdan (Glen Boss) third another two-and-a-quarter length away.


The winning time was 1min 23.98secs for the seven furlongs on the Short Course.


With that second win from as many starts, Southern Dragon has now collected $80,000 for his owners, the TTS Stable.