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Lightning Strike ready to go boom over 1,800m

Fairly new Fitzsimmons-Curatolo pairing likely to gain traction if Derby hope scores

Should Lightning Strike hit the target on May 25, the Tim Fitzsimmons-Ryan Curatolo pairing might just become a more common sight in the coming months.

With no regular stable rider, Fitzsimmons tends to book whoever is available, unless he flies in big-race jockeys such as Mark Zahra and Chad Schofield, like on Kranji Mile day on May 18.

The Australian trainer has noticeably been using Curatolo more since March, with the Frenchman having already repaid him twice with Mt Niseko on March 23 and King Of Sixty-One on April 27.

But Lightning Strike is by far Curatolo’s highest-profile combination with the 2022 Singapore champion trainer up to now.

It is not a first link-up, though. Curatolo partnered the Singapore Derby hopeful at his comeback race on March 30, running third to deadheaters Aniki and January in a Class 3 1,400m event.

That defeat aboard the Impending four-year-old still taught him a few precious lessons, which he was keen to implement.

Not just yet, though, given Schofield was in town on April 21 and, as half-expected, took over.

Lightning Strike ran a closing fourth to Sabah Ace in a Class 3 1,600m contest.

But the reins are back in Curatolo’s hands in the $70,000 Class 3 1,800m event on May 25.

“Tim asked me to work him one morning and told me if I could ride him this Saturday,” he said.

“As I was free, I said yes right away. He’s a horse I really like.

“I finished third on him at his first-up run. In hindsight, I learned it was better to let him take his time to improve through the race.

“He jumped so well that day that I just had to take advantage of his inside draw.

“But he’s definitely a horse who needs to be ridden quiet.”

The hold-up pattern emerged in 2023 when he strung together four straight wins (1,600m thrice and 1,800m), all from off the pace.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, though. The US-trained Curatolo had one chance to test that theory in a barrier trial on May 16.

Settled at the rear behind a bunched-up group of six horses, the Buffalo & Elvin Racing Stable-owned chestnut gathered them in to beat stablemate King Of Sixty-One (Bernardo Pinheiro) by ½-length.

“I really liked his trial. I dropped him at the rear and just let him do his thing,” said Curatolo.

“He’s a middle-distance horse. So the 1,800m will be perfect for him.

“It’ll help if there’s a bit of rain, too. If he gets the right cart, he’ll be right in the mix.”

From his near-full book (nine from 10), Curatolo has also picked up the rides on Ben’s Champion and impressive debut winner Tommy Gun from Fitzsimmons.

Ironically, he pulled the wrong rein by riding Lucky Warrior, who ran sixth in that May 4 Restricted Maiden 1,200m race won by the Ruan Maia-ridden Tommy Gun.

Fitzsimmons is not one to throw a hissy fit over such trivial matters.

“I was meant to ride Tommy Gun at his debut as I’ve been working on him,” said Curatolo. “But I’ve also been riding Lucky Warrior, whom I thought was a little fitter, and Tommy Gun isn’t a morning glory, which I didn’t know then.

“But it rained on the day, and Lucky Warrior did not handle the track while Tommy Gun loved it.

“Tommy Gun’s drawn wide (14) this time, though. I hope it rains.

“I think he’s a real quality horse and will be very competitive here.

“It’s good of Tim to put me back on even after I rode the other horse. These things happen, but Tim is very loyal to his jockeys, and we reciprocate it.”

Finding the next good horse is every jockey’s goal, but Curatolo has been a bit let down by one he thought could have taken him to greater heights.

After a few promising runs for him, including a third to Bestseller in the Group 3 Committee’s Prize (1,600m) on March 9, Invincible Tycoon ran a tepid seventh to Lim’s Kosciuszko in the Group 1 Kranji Mile (1,600m) on May 18.

“When Lim’s Kosciuszko quickened away, my horse could not keep up and ran out of gas,” he said.

“I honestly thought he had a place chance, but he was wide facing the breeze. I tried to cut back in but I couldn’t.

“Still, he was travelling rather comfortably, and I was doing no work on him, but he struggled. Maybe it was the track as well.”