Bestseller a hit in Colonial Chief Stakes
Gutsy 4YO repays trainer Le Grange’s faith in him, gives jockey Stewart perfect send-off
Bestseller gave his Filipino owners a well-deserved first feature success in the $110,000 Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes (1,700m) on Dec 2, as well as the perfect send-off for jockey Ronnie Stewart.
Sandy and Karen Javier have won several races with trainer Ricardo Le Grange since they started racing horses at Kranji in 2022, but had thus far watched wins by the likes of Bestseller, Ace Of Diamonds or Hole In One on television from the Philippines.
With Bestseller by far their best horse and rightly considered as a live lightweight chance in the last feature race of 2023, they had good reason to book their tickets.
“It’s so special to have Sandy and Karen on course for the first time, and win the big race today,” said Le Grange.
“I’ve always believed in this horse, and knew he would win a Group race one day.
“He was so unlucky in the 3YO series (runner-up in all three legs).”
While it was a first gong for the Javiers, Stewart is no stranger to such prize presentations at the Kranji winner’s circle.
The Australian rider has basked in the limelight at that same spot a total of 10 times, most famously at three Singapore Gold Cups with El Dorado (2008, 2009 and 2011) and a Singapore Derby with Jolie’s Shinju (2009).
But, that 2011 Gold Cup win was actually the last time he popped the champagne – at his very last meeting on Nov 13, 2011.
To be fair, the 40-year-old did not return to Singapore for full-time seasons until 2022 and 2023, during which time he hauled up a decent score of 51 winners, but no silverware.
The timing to end that long drought uncannily brought shades of that El Dorado farewell.
Bestseller, a plum ride that nearly got away from him, finally snapped the barren run at his last day of riding at Kranji.
He heads back to his Adelaide hometown on Dec 6 to help his father with his meat business.
The lightweight jockey said that he had not been losing sleep on that last chance to break his 12-year-old trophyless run, but was still happy to pack the memento in his suitcase.
“I wasn’t too fussed about not winning a feature race for so long, especially in the last two years I came back riding full-time here,” he said.
“But it would have been a bonus if I did, and it’s great that things worked out well, especially as I only got on after my original ride Relentless went to Vlad Duric.
“At the parade ring, I told Ricardo that I won the Gold Cup on El Dorado at my last day back in 2011.
“This one was a ride I got late, but hopefully I’d get the job done – and I did.”
If Stewart was glad the fairy-tale ending has repeated itself, Le Grange was hoping his horse would buck a trend that had been his bugbear a few times.
Barrier No. 1 usually draws smiles, but not for the South African mentor since Nov 29 when the cards came out.
“I hate the one, you get stuck on the rails. And when the rain came, it was even more intriguing,” he said.
“But he got a great ride and he’s such a gutsy horse. He’s like a street dog fighter, I knew he’d be in for the fight.”
The Dream Ahead four-year-old enjoyed an economical rails-hugging run in fourth spot throughout the Polytrack feature, but he did look hemmed in when turning for home.
As leader Mr Black Back (Manoel Nunes) rolled off, a gap came up, but Richard Lim’s galloper rolled back in.
Precious lengths and seconds were gone, while favourite Raising Sixty-One (Bruno Queiroz) and Relentless (Vlad Duric) were going full bore off an uninterrupted run on the outside.
But those bulldog qualities Le Grange waxed lyrical about soon came to the fore.
The $20 shot ground his way in between runners to overhaul Raising Sixty-One by ½-length.
“I would have preferred if I were three to four one off than on the fence,” said Stewart.
“In all fairness, when the gaps came, he showed his turn of foot and sprinted really quickly.”