Machado, Elite rider hired all the way from US for Quarteto

Kentucky-based jockey Luan Machado had never heard of Sennett Ho in his life before.

Luan Machado celebrates his Grade 1 Grande Premio Brasil triumph on Quartero De Cordas in Rio de Janeiro last June.
Luan Machado celebrates his Grade 1 Grande Premio Brasil triumph on Quartero De Cordas in Rio de Janeiro last June. Picture: Singapore Turf Club

Hovever a few days after he hung up from an overseas call from the former Penang trainer and current Elite Performance Stable racing manager, he could start packing his bags for a country he had never ridden in – Singapore.

Ho rang up the Brazilian jockey after their new acquisition Elite Quarteto had failed to fire in four starts at Kranji, incidentally all at Group level. In Brazil where the stayer by Rock Of Gibraltar was known as Quarteto De Cordas, he won his four races with the same jockey, including the Grade 1 Grande Premio Brasil (2400m) last year – Machado.

The call was meant to just pick his brains about the Brazilian-bred five-year-old in the hope a few nuggets of information gleaned here and there might help unlock the jigsaw puzzle he has been since arriving at Cliff Brown's yard at Kranji.  

Elite Quarteto already raced in Elite's blue and white colours when he raced twice in the US before being shipped to Singapore, but did not cut much ice, running unplaced in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf (2400m) – gained an automatic ticket after winning the Grande Premio Brasil - won by world champion mare Enable at Churchill Downs last November.

He fared no better at his second US race, the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale (1800m) at Gulfstream Park in December. Machado was not aboard at his US raids when transferred from Brazilian trainer Luiz Esteves to Louisville-based Australian trainer Ian Wilkes; jockey Brian Hernandez Jr did

In Kranji, he even ran in the Group 1 Singapore Derby (1800m) at his penultimate start, but never made his presence felt to finish a distant ninth to Sun Marshal.

At his last start when partnered by Michael Rodd, he improved marginally for a seventh place, just a tick under five lengths off I'm Incredible in the Group 3 Committee's Prize (1600m) on August 18.

The race that had always been his primary target is now next on his agenda, the third Leg of the Singapore Triple Crown series, the Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2000m). With the race two months away on November 10, connections have decided it was time to take the bull by the horns.

As a prep run, Elite Quarteto will contest the traditional lead-up, the Group 3 El Dorado Classic (2000m) on September 20, and Ho popped the question to Machado if he was keen to come halfway around the world to be the pilot.

"Of course I was keen to come and ride in Singapore. I've always heard it was a good place to ride, I know Joao Moreira and Manoel Nunes rode there with great success," said Machado.

"I've never met Mr Sennett Ho. He called me out of nowhere to ask about preliminary stuff on Quarteto De Cordas - as I know him – like what's the best position to ride him for his best performances.

"He usually likes to be in the middle, but that depends on the pace. He's actually a very easy horse to ride.

"It's only later in the chat that Mr Ho asked me if I was interested to ride him in Singapore. This horse has been amazing to me because that'll be the second time he has changed my life.

"When I won the Group 1 race on him in Brazil last year in June, trainers and owners in America asked me to come and ride at Turfway Park (Kentucky) in November, they told me I could do good there."

The 25-year-old, who honed his craft at the Jockey School at Hipódromo da Gávea in Rio de Janeiro and chalked up 300 winners in Brazil for eight years, did more than just "good" at his new base.

He won the leading jockey title at the Turfway Park winter/spring meet with 35 winners from 188 rides, including an epic five-timer on Valentine's Day.

Now residing in Lexington, Machado, whose girlfriend Raissa stayed back in Brazil, also plies his trade at the neighbouring states of Ohio and Indiana.

A winner of more than 350 races, Machado also ranks last year's Grade 3 Copa ABCPCC Velocidade – Mario Belmonte Moglia win aboard Essential Lord at Rio de Janeiro as another career highlight.

But one has a sneaky suspicion, a Group 3 win on a faraway land at a hit-and-run visit, might rank even higher should it come off in two weeks' time.

Or why not even a second Group 1 success as he is also booked to ride another Brown-trained Elite ward, Elite Excalibur in the Raffles Cup (1600m) two days later on September 22.

"I'm really looking forward to the experience in Singapore. I may not know the track but I know Quarteto very well and I hope that will help me in the big race," he said.

Singapore Turf Club