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A weekend of mystery and intrigue (4th day of Pune) - By Shiven Surendranath

Posted on - 08 Aug 2014

A weekend of mystery and intrigue (4th day of Pune)
By Shiven Surendranath
While it was the veiled and possibly inebriated turf accountant who created an atmosphere that might have been penned by Dick Francis on the third day of racing in Poona, it was the sudden reluctance of well backed favourites to jump out of the gates that made one wonder at the supposed “glorious uncertainties of racing “ on the fourth.
The afternoon began on a note of comedy rather than mystery though, with none of the 9 contestants in the race confident of winning. Some funny money came on to Admiral Gray & Mt Tianmen but it was the favourite, Autumn Love, whose odds had drifted like a fallen leaf in a dust devil who won the race.
Considering owner Nirmal Singh’s preference for a bit of a flutter on his horses one wonders if he relished the humour.
Mt Tianmen got the rails and tried to win it running in front. He looked like he was going to succeed in his mission as Autumn Love was being scrubbed and niggled throughout the race to keep pace with the filed and was still only managing a laboured third.
Till the 200 it looked like Mt Tianmen was going to be difficult to conquer but he started to shorten his strides just as Autumn Love began warming up and finally, as we all know, love can conquer any mountain as it did again today.
Autumn Love, who will almost certainly be targeted over a longer trip next time out, should be in the money again.
The comedy of reluctant claimants to the throne continued in the 2nd.
As Alecto went past the winning post the silence that prevailed at the Pune racecourse could have fooled one into believing that he was at the British Council Library, Fergusson Road,and the littlebook in his hand a timeless classic.
Pitbull, as is his style, led into the straight and packed up. Alecto who was always sitting a handy second took the lead and won so easily that his jockey was observed to be stroking the horse’s mane in the final few metres. Sheer Romance finished a bad last after sitting third throughout her run could be ignored. The others were really never in with a chance at any stage.
If there is anything ruder than asking a woman her age it’s asking a woman her weight.
The beautiful Victoria Falls had to face the ignominy of having to publicly stand on the weighing scale a second time after the race. How ever she must have been delighted to be officially declared to be no less than 42 kgs lighter than officially declared earlier.
If the weighing scale had the ability to breathe and move one has no doubt that the officials of the club would have suspended it for a period of two years and given it a fine of Rs.10,000/- and should the weighing scale have applied for a licence it would also only be considered if it first got itself repaired.
Sheer Class who went on a start to finish mission with Victoria Falls sitting second throughout. Past the 400 Sandesh got busy on Victoria Falls and the race was as good as over.
Victoria Falls was too good for Sheer Class and heads to the Fillies’ and Mares’ in her next outing.
Yash Narredu has been successful in arching many an eyebrow amongst the racing fraternity with his unmatched performance in the saddle.
However today their eyebrows arched for a different reason and to quote Wodehouse, “Lotus and Monty were not the only ones to wear the furrowed brow“.
Yash, who was astride the on money favourite Zurich, tipped as the best of the owners many favourites for the day, lost the race at the jump as he took a sharp left instead of heading straight.
In the race it was all about playing catch up for the favourite Zurich as Laurus Pride, Emerald Fortune and Oriental Masti ran 1-2-3 in front. Into the straight it was Laurus Pride and Oriental Masti who fought it out tooth and nail with Oriental Masti just winning at the post much to the delight of his trainer C.Rajendra, who had only given the gelding a place chance.
Zurich’s final position of 4, coming from a long way off, clearly indicated that he would have won with a lot in hand had he jumped out better.
The Stewards need to enquire if Yash Narredu has a Delhi driving license in addition to the gate practice they have prescribed for the horse.
In the fifth, one might have wondered if Darren Williams had an apprentice boy who was a look alike. He tore away from the field on Stayin’ Alive and rode such an ill judged race that one just has to ignore it as one of those things as long as one delve too deeply into which of those things.
Stayin’ Alive, after leading by no less than eight lengths at one stage, was a tired first into the straight, Stiletto took the lead then and stormed away from the field but she caught a good un’ in Rule Downunder who came from way back to win most impressively and gave owner Kersi Vachha his double for the day.
If an apprentice can do something then his senior can do it better. This was proved in the sixth by jockey Sandesh as hot favourite Flashing Chieftain, who had improved considerably since Mumbai, jumped out slowly and became the second well backed favourite of the day to lose the race at the starting gate.
Sandesh then rode a “preserving race” by first keeping Flashing Chieftain tucked in along the rails throughout and then making sure not to whip him even once when he finally got an opening in the straight.
Hopefully Flashing Chieftains preservation period is now over and he will be pulled out to win next time out with a different jockey in the saddle.
Westphalia , with the advantage of a Bangalore campaign, ran a large hearted race to win and one wonders if it was the senior or the junior of the Ruia’s who had asked lady luck for a date that afternoon as their horse was led in.
Apache added to the mystery of the weekend in no small measure.
The horse was 45/100 hot favourite in the Sahachari Foundation Cup when he last ran in Mumbai. An overconfident ride got Zervan into a lot of trouble then as Apache had got beat to Jack Frost. Interestingly in the race before that though, Apache had barely beaten Shivalik Breeze.
While the same Shivalik Breeze had just finished running a poor 5th to Westphalia 30 minutes earlier, Apache had apparently developed classic potential in the off season and was getting backed soundly.
Apache finished last after drifting out wildly when coming under pressure in the straight.
All is not well with Apache and all is definitely not well with those punters who believe in such pre race gobbledygook about horses.
Quizical, the favourite and most aptly named horse under the circumstances was a cut above the field, won quite easily from start to finish with only Sweet As Honey even pretending to challenge.
Arabian Lord was yet another to win start to finish during the day even as his owner had almost sold him of to a riding school for sixty thousand rupees before the race until dissuaded by his trainer.
My Freedom who sat second throughout finished second while Gran Amigo let down all his amigo’s as he bled in the race.
It is said that a horse runs best when the horse and jockey become one. There could be no better example of this than with horse Heart Of The City and jockey Daman, but, so “one” did they become that when a stone went into the eye of Heart Of The City  during the last race of the day, it was Daman who lost his vision causing him to run straight into the favourite Zeda in front with less than 400 to go.
Zeda won untroubled even though coming from an unfavourable draw and getting a little used up to get a prominent position earlier on.
Trainer Rehanullah Khan seemed very pleased with the effort of his miler, Asahi, placing second in a sprint. Asahi should be noted next when he runs over a more favourable trip.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the author's personal views.)

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