where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2019-11-11 19:24:56  
Le Grange-Vorster-Crabbia Rocket back the years

 Water Rocket turned back the clock for an old firm that used to rule the roost at Kranji for many years on Sunday.


The Argentinian-bred races in the iconic black and red maltese cross silks of South African owner Fred Crabbia, who is staging a resurgence of sorts after scaling down his squad in the last three years since trainer Patrick Shaw left Kranji.


While the likes of Rafaello and Board Walk have maintained a token presence for the steel magnate with Shaw’s successor Ricardo Le Grange, Water Rocket could mark the pledging of a renewed support in years to come.


Another major cog who had left the South African team was jockey Barend Vorster, who suddenly pulled up stumps earlier in the year to move to Adelaide, Australia.


An instant hit with leading trainer Tony McEvoy (they combined for a Group 1 win with Sunlight in the Newmarket Handicap at his first week in the office), Vorster has indeed found the grass greener at his new home turf.


But Kranji was a patch the popular former Singapore champion jockey (2004) has always loved, coming back for a short hit-and-run visit in May, and duly landing a feature race with Bold Thruster in the Group 3 Rocket Man Sprint (1200m) for Shane Baertschiger.


And last but not least, speaking of Rocket Man, the name Water Rocket certainly brought echoes of Singapore’s and Crabbia’s most famous horse, but maybe not quite the Orpen three-year-old’s tradesmanlike nose-win in the $75,000 Restricted Maiden Division 1 race over 1400m, titled as the Victoria Harbour Stakes.


After tracking up second-favourite Qiji Diamond (Vlad Duric) from the start, Water Rocket, the odds-on favourite at $9, looked all poised to race past when Vorster took him to the front upon cornering, but victory was anything but all stitched up.


Clearly headed, Qiji Diamond found another gear on the rails, paving the way for a titanic battle for the whole length of the home straight. The crowd held its breath as the duelling pair waged a ding-dong battle to the line where a nose was what it took to fling the old Le Grange-Vorster-Crabbia trinity back in the spotlight.


All that while, Mighty Vain (Benny Woodworth) lurked just a couple of lengths astern, but John O’Hara’s galloper had to settle for third place another 1 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 22.65secs for the 1400m on the Short Course.


“Fred and I go back 30 years. He is the one who introduced me to the racing game in South Africa,” said Le Grange.


“We’ve been around the world together. It’s also unbelievable to see Barend back in these colours, it’s very emotional.


“The horse himself deserves it. He’s still a big baby and he deserves a break now.


“He was waiting for something in the straight, but it’s nerves well spent. If he had been beaten, we would’ve been stiff, but he’s a horse for the future and will be a nice horse for us.”


To see Vorster weighing in a winner back in colours he probably carried to at least a good 50 of his haul of 785 wins during his 15-year stint in Singapore was certainly a lovely walk down memory lane for not just the jockey, but also for all Kranji racing fans who love a touch of nostalgia.


“Great to see the old team back today, only Patty (Shaw) is missing!” said Vorster who was the stable jockey to the 2011 Singapore champion trainer throughout his whole tenure in Singapore.


“I had a beautiful run throughout, and I thought he would put it away, but he is still immature and was looking around.


“He will keep improving from that run.”


With a second and a third recorded at his previous five starts, Water Rocket has now racked up in excess of $60,000 for Crabbia.


Singapore Turfclub 

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