SPORT

Wild Eagle trounces Guineas field

MUMBAI, DEC. 27. ``Does not look right'' and ``Has not been working well'' were a couple of optimistic assessments made by some of the connections of the rivals of the current three-year-old champion, Wild Eagle, prior to the running of the latest renewal of the McDowell Indian 2000 Guineas. This mental psyching bore no fruit as the big-built chestnut son of Don't Forget Me trounced his dozen rivals with a killing burst of speed that was switched on at about the halfway mark of the metric mile journey.

The game plan for the Arti Doctor-trained, Mark Gallagher-ridden gelding was to sit off the pace, which in this case was set by Star Wish, and then to use Wild Eagle's high cruising speed to burn the opposition off its feet. These tactics worked perfectly. Only the talented Ansbach, coming off four consecutive victories, was able to make some inroads into the significant lead poached by the favourite, but even he was coming to the end of his tether after 400 metres of severe effort. Tobler was a hard-ridden third and The Pelican fourth.

Bred at the Manjri Stud - which was last represented by a winner of this prestigious event 29 years ago when Bade Miya annexed it in 1972 - Wild Eagle is out of a half-sister to the high-class Golden Opinion, winner of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in 1989. Delighted owner Mohan Thakur told The Hindu that his brilliant runner will now be targeted at the McDowell Indian Derby on February 3. Admittedly, the gelding's pedigree fits the miler's template better than that of a stayer, yet the presence of strong stamina elements and a generous heaping of class engender substantial hope that he will get the trip.

Other Sunday action proved popular with punters as nine consecutive favoruites scored in the 11-event card. The largesse commenced with a smart win for Centenary in the 2,400m. Class II Shantidas Askuran Trophy. Perhaps the best-bred runner in India, the Jaggi Dhariwal-trained daughter of Storm Bird from Canadian champion Legarto gave C. Rajendra an armchair ride. The only aspect of concern regarding the result was her tendency to come off the rail towards the close, suggesting a depletion of stamina reserves.

Two smart juveniles clashed in the 1,200m. Allah Rakhkha Trophy, and the pair finished a distance clear of the rest. These were Diffident's daughter, Sky Rocket, and the Razeen filly Our Dynasty, with the latter - a scopy sort - quoted at odds-on. Allowing the former to get first run, B. Prakash got to work on the public choice and successfully challenged the leader.

The trip appeared sharp for the winning own-sister to Noble Opinion, who looks a grand prospect for her connections. Dallas Todywalla added a welcome point in a season in which he has been unusually slow off the mark.

A three-parts brother to Cape Dance, Star Power was too good for his eight rivals in the lower division of the F. K. Vakil Trophy. Celtic Son flattered briefly, but a fierce effort on the outside on the part of Nirad Karanjawala's ward settled the issue. Gallagher excelled in the saddle to set up a double, completed by Wild Eagle. In the upper division, Lucky Strike, a half-sister to Moment Of Glory, maintained her unbeaten record.

The Altaf Hussein-trained Poonawalla homebred repelled the challenge of Kraftwerk, who was a trifle late getting into his stride and was finishing on rapidly.

Another rider to end the day with a brace was C. Rajendra. Getting away from the No. 1 draw besides the rails, he kept his mount Anacita aligned on the shortest path home, and shrugged off the attempts by Touch Wood to get on level terms.

Alice Charms came up late to occupy the runner-up slot. With Anacita's success, Imtiaz Sait added to his tally, thereby heating up matters at the top of the trainers' table, where he is engaged in a keen tussle with Dhariwal.

With the very talented Palazzio, from Bezan Chenoy's yard, being strongly supported in the `Daum France' & L'Artiste Crystal Trophy for Class III runners, the destination of the shimmering object d'art, valued at Rs.75,000, seemed clear. That proved to be the case, with sporting owner Capt. Jamshed Appoo leading in the winner, who became the first runner to break the 1 minute barrier for the sprint this term. Incidentally, the same owner had collected the trophy last year as well, when the race was for two-year-olds, through the medium of Iceberg.

Super Sword possesses a lot of initial speed, and despite a slower-than-usual getaway, was soon well up in the 1100 m. sprint. After Osprey had shot its bolt, Super Sword, with Francis Berry in the irons, streaked clear and checked in by over five lengths. Trainer Ivor Fernandes equipped the Excalibur's Lake gelding with blinkers, which perhaps helped him keep to his task. Timbavati followed him home.

The run of favourites was brought to a rude halt when Niall McCullagh pulled up Radical Force within 200 metres of the start of the concluding 2,000m. race. He is reported to have felt something ``snapping behind the saddle''. Veterinary examination revealed nothing amiss, although it has been speculated that the gelding locked his right stifle. The Stipendiary Stewards were directed to enquire into the incident and to submit a detailed report. Meanwhile, Cajun King - a half-brother to Continual - went on to record his maiden victory. The Dhariwal-trained grey has an awkward gait, but has the credentials to improve.

Earlier, on Tuesday, a meeting was held on the All Weather track, when favourites took a beating. Many of these were false favourites, such as the half-money Al Humair in the opener, when Bryce Canyon as a veteran of the surface had superior credentials. Sure enough, Bryce Canyon opened up a winning lead once Sunglow had done his job, and despite all Rajendra's efforts, Al Humair could not bridge the gap. After a grand season at Pune, where he recorded the highest percentage success, Shiraz Sunderji has been having a lean time at Mahalakshmi and would certainly have been pleased by this victory.

Calpurnia, the solitary public fancy to score, gave her supporters a moment's anxiety, when slowly away at the start. She made steady progress through the field under McCullagh to seize the initiative and draw away towards the close.

The improvement in her performance could be attributed in some degree to the fitment of blinkers by her painstaking trainer, Cooji Katrak, in whose colours she races.

Without a win for over a year, the Narendra Lagad- trained Crowning Moment had been biting off more than he could chew last season when attempting to tackle classic company. Those who remembered his decent fourth-placed effort in the 2,000m running of the McDowell Indian Derby would certainly have fancied him mildly on his return to handicap company at Mahalakshmi.

Allowing Idaho to lead for over three-fourths of the 1400 m. trip, Gallagher urged his mount to extend his strides, and the pair went clear under the whip. It was surprising to see Southern Star lose a few lengths at the start, as a result of which she was never in contention.

Other winners during the afternoon were Khim, Arabian Commander, Thundering Grey and Safari Girl, of which only the last-named appears to have the scope to repeat. The four-year-old daughter of Razeen/Parfait Amour is making up for lost time with her back-to-back win. Interestingly, every one of the seven winners had at least one North American-bred parent, hinting perhaps that this is a factor to be taken into account when searching for winners on the All Weather track.