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Big Brother collects big hongbao in Fortune Bowl
Michael Lee

First-year trainer Ricardo Le Grange saddled his first Group winner after mile specialist Big Brother landed the $200,000 Group 3 Fortune Bowl (1600m) on Sunday.


For good measure, Le Grange, who had half of the field to his name with four runners in the traditional Chinese New Year feature, also trains the runner-up Time Odyssey for a memorable quinella at only his first month of training.


Assistant-trainer to fellow South African mentor Patrick Shaw from the day he moved to Singapore in 2001, Le Grange eventually took over the reins last December when Shaw bowed out for a 6 ½-month sabbatical leave to look after his failing health. 

Big Brother (Nooresh Juglall) edges out stablemate Time Oydessy (Glen Boss) to claim the Fortune

Granted, the transfer of Shaw’s powerful stable of horses to Le Grange, lock, stock and barrel was a major bonus, but the 43-year-old still had to go out there as a trainer in his own right - and make them win races.


And that he has been doing right off the bat since January 2, with that first ‘black type’ win four weeks later, a quick accolade most pundits did not see coming as a surprise.


The road ahead is still long, and fraught with disappointments no doubt, especially in the fickle world of racing, but Le Grange, whose earlier winner Song To The Moon is another big-race prospect (Derby), could not have earned his early stripes any better.


“I feel humbled and privileged to be here, as you dream of that first feature winner for a long time,” he said.


“Again, I have to thank the Singapore Turf Club for granting me a licence and my band of wonderful clients for their continuous support.


“I would like to thank Pat, and also a great team of workers like (assistant-trainer) Jacci (de Tert) and all the boys behind me. It’s a relief to get that first feature win, but it’s also so special.


“I also have to thank Nooresh (Juglall) for a fantastic ride on Big Brother. The second horse (Time Odyssey) was also gutsy in defeat.”


After Song To The Moon, it looks like Le Grange may soon have an embarrassment of riches for the Group 1 Emirates Singapore Derby (2000m) on July 9.


“Big Brother has been a bit unlucky. Things did not quite go his way a few times,” he said.


“The Derby could be a race for him. It’s six months away, but I will have a chat with the owners and work out a plan.


“The four-year-old series is ideal for him, but I’ll take it race by race from now on.”

Fortune smiles all round: (from left) jockey Nooresh Juglall,
Honorary Steward
Mr Edward D'Souza (in the background), Juglall's wife Chaaya and trainer Ricardo Le Grange.  

Le Grange had the Fortune Bowl – a race he has won twice (Emperor’s Banquet in 2015 and Quechua in 2016) with Shaw when it was a 2000m race in its current format – in a vice-like grip right from the start with Glen Boss allowing Time Odyssey ($38) to amble to the front on the complete outside down the backstraight, while Big Brother ($23) slotted into the perfect trailing position one off the fence.


They were not to lose those berths, except that the spots were swapped at the business end.


With the Le Grange duo dictating matters upfront, $11 favourite Nova Strike (Manoel Nunes) was posted even deeper, on the outside of Big Brother. He was still within striking distance, but when he swung for home three wide, it soon became evident he had been caught on the backfoot.


As Time Odyssey blew the bugle for that charge to the line, Big Brother was the first to pounce for his challenge, while Nova Strike could not quite conjure up a response, wavering a little, rolling in and out, forcing Nunes to switch his whip through to his left hand in a last desperate bid to close the gap.


But upfront, Big Brother was not flinching as he collared Time Odyssey, gaining the ascendancy in workmanlike fashion, but assuredly enough. For a second, though, it looked like Boss could get his mount to battle his way back, but Juglall and Big Brother stuck to their guns to prevail by a neck.


Nova Strike did come back again, but those couple of lengths he lost while fluffing his lines proved costly. The Red Giant four-year-old had to settle for third place another length away. The winning time was 1min 34.82secs for the 1600m on the Long Course.


Juglall said Big Brother was highly-deserving of a Group win and paid tribute to the teamwork behind his crowning moment while he modestly said he had the easier deal.


“This horse has a big heart and he dug down deep for that win today. He has been trained the right way,” said the Mauritian jockey who was enjoying a red-letter day on Chinese New Year with a riding treble (he also scored with Song To The Moon and Constance’s Spirit).


“A big thank you to the team, to Ricardo and the Thai owners. They do all the hard work and they make me look good. I’m just a pilot on the day.”


An Argentinian-bred by Orpen, Big Brother has now registered all his five wins (including one in Argentina) over the mile for stakes earnings that have now tipped over the $320,000 mark for the Falcon Racing No 3 Stable.