Trainer Ricardo Le Grange was walking rather cautiously towards the winner’s stall even after his ward Zac Ace was first past the line on Sunday.
He had every reason to be on tenterhooks. The last time he marched down to lead in the Swiss Ace four-year-old, he eventually ended up with the runner-up prize after the result was overturned in the Stewards’ room.
Ridden by Nooresh Juglall in a Class 4 Non Premier race over 1600m two weeks ago, Zac Ace beat Za’eem (Shafrizal Saleh) by a head, but was downgraded to second place after an objection for interference by Za’eem’s trainer Michael Clements was upheld.
If redemption was being sought for horse, trainer and rider alike, it looked all done and dusted when the Zac Stable-owned galloper was angled out for his run by Juglall at the 300m of the $45,000 Class 4 Non Premier race over 1600m on Sunday, looking ready to explode.
But Le Grange must have felt like deja-vu when Zac Ace hit a brickwall instead, with Mettlesome (Alan Munro), who had looked beat then, starting to pull the ground off him again.
When they hit the line, with the naked eye, Zac Ace might have just held on, but once bitten twice shy, Le Grange would rather not count his chicks this time.
The South African handler could, however, breathe better after correct weight was flashed on the big screen. Panache (Barend Vorster) ran third another one and three-quarter length away. The winning time was 1min 41.06secs for the 1600m on the Polytrack.
“For a second, I thought it would be the same story as last time, but luckily, he won, and we’ll take the win with both hands,” said the relieved South African handler.
“He’s that type of horse who is difficult to train as he keeps losing his weight all the time. Thanks to (assistant-trainer) Jacci (de Tert) who makes sure he stays fit all the time.
“I’d also like to thank his track rider Ayie who rides him every morning in trackwork.”
Juglall said Zac Ace should have gapped his rivals by a bigger margin if not for his tendency to stargaze when he hits the front.
“I thought he would win by four. He was looking around, floating around,” said the in-form Mauritian jockey.
“It’s only when the other horse (Mettlesome) joined him that he got his confidence back. He has improved a lot and a big thank you to Ayie for doing a good job on him as he’s quite a difficult horse to train.”
With that second win in 11 starts, Zac Ace has now taken his stakes earnings close to the $85,000 mark for the Zac Stable.