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Le Grange’s polish gets Maxima on the scoresheet at Singapore debut

August 23, 2023 at 4:43:26 AM

Trainer Ricardo Le Grange showed again why he was one of the most astute trainers in Singapore after the well-travelled Maxima won his first race in Singapore on Sunday.

Before the German-bred six-year-old gelding took out the $50,000 Class 4 race (1200m), he last won in March 2020 over the mile in the United Kingdom as a three-year-old after being undefeated at three starts as a two-year-old in France.

The son of Ivawood then raced on the competitive Hong Kong circuit. Although he managed four placings from 13 starts under the care of trainer Tony Millard, he failed to beat a runner home in two runs this year and was transferred to Le Grange in May.

A patient trainer by nature, the South African-born Le Grange did not waste time to get the Edmond Yue-owned Maxima race fit and he impressed many by winning his only trial at Kranji a few months later on August 8 in a solid time of 1 min 0.05secs.

Sent out as the $13 favourite for his Singapore debut on the back of that good trial, Maxima jumped well from gate one for jockey Bernardo Pinheiro to hold an on-pace position on the rails, while Pacific MV (Vlad Duric) made the early running.

$23 Second favourite Grand Avante (Marc Lerner) had the drop on the two leaders in third place with cover, followed by a wall of horses – including Elliot Ness (Bruno Queiroz), Our Pinnacle (Wong Chin Chuen) and Prestige Star (Manoel Nunes) – all handy in the running.

But when Pacific MV kicked two lengths clear at the 300m, only Maxima and Grand Avante could go on with him, and it quickly turned into a three-horse race in the final furlong.

By the 150m, it was Maxima who first drew level and raced past the leader to put the race to bed in a stride or two. Pinheiro eased up on the line, finishing one-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of Grand Avante while the tiring Pacific MV ran home another three-parts-of-a-length in third.

Amazing Breeze (Benny Woodworth) ran on well late from the rear of the 12-horse field to finish a neck away in fourth. The winning time was 1 min 11.22secs for the 1200m on the Polytrack.

Le Grange was very happy after the win and thought that Maxima has plenty more to offer in Singapore.

"He's a work in progress for sure," said Le Grange.

"The fact he did it tough today but still won was an amazing effort. We haven't had him for long, so I feel that there is a lot more to come from this horse as we learn more about him.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity from (owner) Mr Yue. He (Maximus) was an expensive purchase (710,000 Euros as a two-year-old) and had his issues in Hong Kong, so to get him to win early (in Singapore) was very rewarding.

"The day he walked into the stable, he looked like he loved the place, but he was of high maintenance, so all the staff had been very hands on in keeping him happy.

"(Apprentice jockey) Rozlan (Nazam) rode him every day and he had been extremely patient. He's (Maxima) never been easy, so it's been a real team effort.

"But Maximus also improved every morning. We threw a lot at him and he responded, that's why he got to the races so soon.

"He came with a reputation and he's relatively lightly-raced, so it's exciting going forward."

Pinheiro was confident of a good showing before the race, albeit he has not ridden the horse prior to his Singapore debut.

"That's the first time I rode him (Maxima)," said the Brazilian hoop.

"But he trialled well with Rozlan and when I helped Ricardo in the morning, I followed the horse. I also saw his races in Hong Kong, so I was pretty confident.

"He had a good draw, jumped well and showed a bit of speed. I was happy to sit off the pace and I was on the bit. Once I asked him in the straight, he responded very well.

"That was only his first run in Singapore, so I'm sure Ricardo did not push him too hard and he'll improve from here.

"Thanks to all the staff."

With that first win in Singapore, Maxima has taken his local earnings to under $30,000 for his owner.

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