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Curatolo King for a day

French jockey shows good knack for front runners with a treble, score may rise in Malaysia

With half of the 10 Kranji races won from the front on June 22, jockey Ryan Curatolo emerged as its most successful proponent courtesy of a hat-trick of wins all recorded in that register.

Right from the off, the French jockey duly set the tone with Gold Governor leading all the way, before doubling the dose with another Tim Fitzsimmons ward, King Of Sixty-One, three races later.

By Race 6, Curatolo, and all the other jockeys for that matter, had wised up to the way the track was playing. He got third-time lucky with the Richard Lim-trained Combustion, albeit just lasting by a head this time.

Interestingly, he was less successful with the hold-up rides on his remaining seven bookings (he had a full book), though the vigorous jockey came close with two seconds aboard Vgor and Golden Eighteen.

But punters were certainly not complaining about the way he worked the track bias to his full advantage at those three winning steers.

Favourite backers got their money’s worth on leading picks Gold Governor ($20) and King Of Sixty-One ($13), as did the more adventurous with $42 shot Combustion.

“I love getting on top of front runners like these, especially when everything works out well,” said Curatolo.

“We’re always worried we’ll get taken on, but my three winners had things their way. It was a good day at the office.”

The prolific haul cemented his fourth place on the jockeys’ premiership and also inched him closer to fellow French jockey Marc Lerner, who returned empty-handed. On 26 winners, Curatolo is only one off Lerner.

Of his trio of victors, King Of Sixty-One would arguably be the one with the most upside, and potentially destined for richer pickings.

“He’s always shown ability when he goes in front,” said Fitzsimmons. “He’s now half-a-chance to run in the Gold Cup. We’ll head towards that.”

With that latest gilt-edged addition, the 2022 Singapore champion trainer is now saddled with an embarrassment of riches for the $1.38 million Group 1 100th Grand Singapore Gold Cup (2,000m) on Oct 5. He is already banking on a strong squad made up of Golden Monkey, Dream Alliance and Raising Sixty-One.

An Irish-bred five-year-old by Gutaifan, King Of Sixty-One might not quite be in the same calibre, but with his rating of 70 expected to take a hike, he may sneak in at a low handicap.

Fitzsimmons would also be praying for rain, similar to the one that pelted down on Kranji in the morning.

“This horse had good wet track form in Ireland, with a couple of seconds, but he’s never got on one here until today,” said the Australian conditioner.

“I was a bit worried he would be taken on in front today, but it didn’t happen. He was unchallenged and he just kept going.

“I’ve also learned that I will keep him on the short course from now on. He seems to be more effective there, whereas on the long course, it’s a long stretch, and he’s left in front for too long.”

Curatolo, who gets backed on most of Fitzsimmons’ horses these days, said he was sitting on a winner from a long way out.

“He was on the bridle and I had a lot of horse under me,” he said.

“As he drew a good gate, I kept things simple. I had little trouble going forward.

“He was able to take a nice breather mid-race. He was basically left alone in front and that worked to his advantage.

“When I released the handbrakes, he accelerated beautifully. He won very well.”

If anything, the pattern was a carbon copy of his opening salvo on Gold Governor in the $30,000 Class 5 Division 1 race (1,400m).

“It was the same story with Gold Governor,” he added.

“He’s a one-paced horse. But with the soft lead he got in front, he just kept going.”

Curatolo may not be done for the weekend as he also takes his first seven rides in Malaysia on June 23, Kuala Lumpur to be precise.

“It’s my first time riding in Malaysia. Buffalo Stable asked me to go up,” said the globetrotting jockey, who can now add Malaysia to a resume that includes US, South Korea, Japan, Dubai and Macau.

“Trumpy is the main Buffalo ride. I don’t know the horses, but I’ve done some homework, and I reckon I’ve got some good chances.

“Tim is going up with me. It should be a good experience.”