Great Plan B as Dreams on hold
Proactive Stewart lands choice Raffles Cup ride after Street Of Dreams is pulled out
Ronnie Stewart must have felt like in a game of musical chairs of late, even if he was the right man at the right time more than once.
The latest plum ride to have landed on the Australian lightweight jockey’s lap is none other than Hongkong Great in the $300,000 Group 1 Raffles Cup (1,600m) on Saturday.
It all began when he was handed the keys to Street Of Dreams, after Manoel Nunes stepped aside twice due to weight and suspension.
Stewart answered both calls with the perfect ride, making it back-to-back wins on the rising star.
He then found out that the straight-six winner would be a no-show in the Raffles Cup.
He was not all that shocked, given that both trainer Steven Burridge and owner Joe Singh’s body languages had suggested they were not really that way inclined.
Stewart, on the other hand, had to move on and find another ride.
Ironically, it was after he had filled in for another rider that he could plug that new gap of his.
On March 12, Hongkong Great’s trainer, Ricardo Le Grange, picked him for the steering job on Sayonara in a Class 5 race after Calvin Habib could not make the weight.
The winning ride could not have come at a better time to a pairing seldom seen at Kranji.
“After Street Of Dreams was out of the Raffles Cup, I rang Ricardo,” said Stewart.
“I’ve always got along well with Ricardo, even if I’ve not ridden a lot for him. When he was assistant trainer to Patrick Shaw, I did have the odd ride for them, even though they already had Robbie Fradd and Mark du Plessis as stable jockeys.
“I then won on that pick-up Class 5 ride for Ricardo; it was my first win for him. A bit later, he organised the ride on Hongkong Great.
“I was very lucky because at first he told me Katak and Hongkong Great were already booked, and I could ride Rocket Star. But then he decided not to run Rocket Star.
“He then gave me the ride on Hongkong Great instead. I can’t complain – I rode the winner, and now I’m on the runner-up.”
Stewart was alluding to Street Of Dreams’ last-start win in a Kranji Stakes A race (1,600m) on March 4.
After a dismal first-up run since his 2022 Singapore Gold Cup heroics, Hongkong Great then bounced back with a brave second. He had to burn the candle at both ends, only to get cut down late by Street Of Dreams.
Stewart will not sit on the Chilean-bred seven-year-old by Lookin At Lucky until race day.
But he has viewed enough of his race replays to know what to expect on Saturday.
“Vlad Duric rode him in a grass gallop on Tuesday. Ricardo would rather have Vlad gallop him as he can pull quite hard in work, but not on race day,” said Stewart.
“I watched his gallop. I’m not sure how he handled the wet track.
“The good thing, to me, is that he’s a better weight-for-age horse.
“He makes his own luck in front and will get into a nice rhythm.”
That was why he was not losing too much sleep over the bold front runner drawing yet another sticky gate (11). To him, the real barrier was the stiff opposition.
“I’m not really concerned by the draw,” he said.
“There’s another speed horse in Katak. We won’t get into a speed battle with him.
“Katak didn’t run in the last race, he’ll be a big threat. I also respect Lim’s Kosciuszko – he has the form on the board.
“I thought he’d do a bit more in his trial (Thursday), though. But he’s still the horse to beat, followed by Katak, and mine.”