Favourites to the fore


WITH ELEVEN of the fifteen events in the period under review falling to favourites or joint favourites, the public had little to complain about. Even so, the fact is that a majority (8 out of 15) of the winners had finished unplaced last time and there are still too many non-triers for comfort. Active jockeys like C. Rajendra, B. Prakash and M. Narredu took home between them no less than two-thirds of the prizes on offer. The gulf between the top riders and those barely eking out a living has widened drastically.

Weekend action commenced with the older brigade getting an opportunity to earn some maintenance money in a Class IV handicap. Heaven Sent came through on the rails, raising hopes that his trainer, Mrs. Nina Lalwani, would be able to record an initial career success, but despite Mallesh Narredu's efforts, the gelding had no answer once Thundering Grey threw down the gauntlet. The victorious grey from Magansingh Jodha's yard was steered by Bajrang Singh.

Having run an encouraging second in the Piaggio Ape Independence Trophy after a long layoff, Chelsea looked sure to make amends here over 1800 m. Once more, Narredu found a clear passage on the inside, but yet again found his mount lacking that little bit extra as Phalaenopsis and Momentous Mover motored past. After a lively tussle, the last-named gained the edge by a head at the wire to open Robert De Mellow's account for the season. Any argument that the 1 kg. overweight that Mark Gallagher carried on the runner-up affected the result could be countered by the fact that B. Prakash on the winner went out 2.5 kg. above his allotted assignment!

A failed favourite in maiden events on more than one occasion, Stone Ridge had amassed the useful sum of Rs. 1,91,402, so far. Pitched by his trainer, Dallas Todywalla, into a similar set over the metric mile, he was aided by a pacemaker in Shanillo, who made the early running. With these new tactics, Narredu was able to restrain Stone Ridge until the opportune moment, which came passing the Turf Club House. The Razeen gelding then sailed clear and was never in any threat from Anthology, who raced more willingly without the blinkers with which he had been hitherto fitted out.

Still a maiden after 10 starts over 6 different distances, Malada has been a disappointment so far. Equipped on this occasion with blinkers, she seemed completely transformed. With B. Prakash in the saddle, Nirad Karanjawalla's ward stretched away to outpoint Attia In Sunlight comprehensively. The runner-up also put up a better showing with the blinkers she now sported. Favourite Special Crown was thereabouts and ended up a tame third. As the time for the metric mile was very modest, it's possible this was not quite so informative a contest, as it might have seemed.

Once Safarando had annexed the Colts Stakes by a wide margin a few days ago, there seemed no stopping his erstwhile conqueror, Daring Don, when he next faced the starter. That occasion came here, in a Class III affair, in which the last-named son of Don't Forget Me was the only three-year-old in the field. Sent off at odds-on, the gelding duly won from Stolichnaya, but his effort lacked fluency. C. Rajendra really had to get into him to extract the winning turn of foot. Daring Don has now completed a four- timer, becoming only the sixth member of his crop to achieve this distinction, and deserves a rest to recover from his exertions. No doubt his shrewd trainer, Vijay Khanna, will strive to keep his ward in fine fettle.

Nine unraced juveniles joined half a dozen exposed maidens in a sprint in which only three runners attracted support. As these finished in the anticipated order, the tanala payoffs were miserly. A potential star was unveiled by Arti Doctor in the shape of Ally McBeal, who trounced her rivals, with Cotopaxi and Special Happening following her home at a discreet distance. The triumphant Placerville filly has taken her time to reach racing fitness but had advertised her ability by some sparkling morning track works and started at odds-on.

Heavy wagering was reported on Dream Lover in the concluding event, who was preferred over Current Bay by those who follow rumours. More dispassionate observers would have noted the vastly superior credentials of the latter - the trainer, owner, rider, stud farm, sire, all had higher win percentages than the former. Sure enough, when the button was switched on, Current Bay essayed an electrifying burst that scorched her market rival by almost five lengths. Ruzzan did duty on the Mallya-owned, Dhariwal- trained Placerville filly who was fortunate to find such a soft spot to shed her maiden status.

Following morning showers, Sunday's sport was switched to the Monsoon track, and opened with Crystal Girl finding the winner's enclosure for the first time at Pune. Overall, it was only the third career victory for the speedy Tecorno filly, who was sent out as the public choice. She is another inmate of the Todywalla stable and helped her schooler consolidate his position at the top of the table.

A descendant of a wonderful family, Tout De Suite has always been held in high regard, so much so that she had started as the favourite for the Martell Mile back at Mahalakshmi in April. Although she showed her inexperience then by ending up sixth, she was given another chance here and did put in a far better effort when second by just half a length to Moment Of Truth. The winner is a strongly-made son of Tocave Botta, and is a prime candidate for becoming a top handicapper. C. Rajendra guided home the Jodha-trained runner, who has been gelded during the break.

Cliche had a string of noughts constituting her form line after her initial runner-up effort on debut over two and a half years ago. The less-than- sound racemare had E.J. Lobow aboard, a rider not very familiar with being led in astride a winner - his last such moment of glory at Pune being on Royal Insignia in August 1996 if memory serves right. Not surprisingly, only the very optimistic factored in the chances of Vijay Kasbekar's ward. Her intentions were soon clear, for she matched strides with Imperial Falcon, then came in on to him before going clear. Imperial Falcon weakened to be a faraway fourth and his rider's objection was thrown out.

The small-made Razalin is a very speedy customer who invariably hits the front over sprints and then tries to hang on. With the Monsoon track favouring speed, B. Prakash got right down to business on her and packed enough in reserve to ward off the attentions of Thunder Struck and Gay Minstrel with a modicum of ease. Second favourite Safarando appears to have been taken to the well once too often - this was his fourth start in just over five weeks - and faded. He can bounce back in due course.

One of the few apparently juicy propositions this season to fail was Oh So Quick. Hosidar Daji's juvenile hope started at odds on with Rajendra in the saddle but failed to sparkle at any stage. Neither did any of the other four three-year-olds create an impression, other than Natural Grace, who shaped as a winner. However, she was run out of it by Money Magic, coming from far behind, and Candescent, making only his fourth career start at the age of five.

The second of the season's prestigious terms events for older horses - the Turf Club Trophy -fell to the same runner that had won the first, namely Radiant. This half sister-in-blood to Procida has been a consistent runner and is possessed of a stunning turn of foot. From her draw next to the rails she was off like a bullet, then settled to stalk the pace set by Mi Amante, and finally drew away, when asked by Rajendra, with facile ease. Magansingh Jodha trains the Portroe filly, who runs in the colours of Shapoor Mistry - both their wives also hold stakes in her ownership. A rest is now contemplated for Radiant, but she is likely to remain in training for another year.

Emmanuel's Pet had advertised his fitness with a runner-up effort behind Immaculate last time out. With B. Prakash replacing S.K. Jadhav, the portents were favourable, although there were supporters also for Tonnerre, Silver Line and Perfect Strides. Emmanuel's Pet was the first to show and hung on to his rapidly diminishing lead from the game Perfect Strides. Draculla had the form to finish in the money, which he did by occupying the minor placing. A three-year-old with a bit of form is usually too good for older horses in Class V at this time of year, and sure enough the Ruia Stud-bred pair of Survee's Pet and As A Rule finished well clear of the rest. The former lay third initially, then took the lead and kept going under Bhati. Narredu's challenge on the runner-up seemed threatening but they could not go through with their effort. It was something of a family celebration for Zubin and Shernaz Engineer as the former trains the winning Soft Currency filly for his wife.


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