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Zurbaran gets his due at last

By Sharan Kumar

23rd Feb, 2003

Jockey Malesh Narredu is indeed in an unenviable position despite having won two Grade 1 races over the Invitation Cup Week-end races. The most prestigious race of the Indian Racing Calendar, the Gr 1 Indian Turf Invitation Cup could have been his for the asking. But the jockey who has made a mess of things every time he has been confronted with the problem of choice, once again chose to look elsewhere for the all elusive win in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup by opting to ride Indian Derby winner Noble Eagle in preference to Zurbaran as he continued to be clueless as to what the real depth of the son of Peaks And Valleys is. The confusion in the jockey’s mind and his inability to come to right assessment were once again to the fore as Padmanabhan trained Zurbaran, who has won every alternate run ever since he went for the Mumbai classics, won in the capable hands of Englishman Martin Dwyer, in spectacular style, in all an India record timing of 2 minutes 28.84 seconds in one of the most solidly run races in the history of this event.

Ironically, Zurbaran had displayed gutsy fighting qualities under the very jockeys who preferred to look elsewhere. Perhaps, the Indian jockeys as also Irishman Nail McCullagh are clueless when assessing high cruising running style of American breds as against the horses they are used to riding over the years. They are still to relate their riding to high cruising horses which go at a strong gallop as against the traditional way of holding up horses behind and making the final assault in the final two furlongs. Despite being the most consistent horse during the winter season, a different jockey has partnered Zurbaran on each occasion and he is sure to be partnered by someone else in the Indian St Leger. For Narredu sake, one hopes that he would let others make the choice and do what he is best at : Riding power packed races.

Noble Eagle had pulled off a fast one when running as a pacemaker. The perceptions of the jockeys riding behind Noble Eagle in the Indian Derby was that the son of Alnasr Alwasheek was best for sprints and that he will pack up when the race comes to a boil. Fortunately for the connections of Noble Eagle, the gelding ran well within himself and had a good break at the top of the straight and extended it even as the others were planning their assault. As such, Noble Eagle was expected to have it tough this time as there was bound to be pressure on him to sustain his front-running tactics. To the credit of Noble Eagle and Zurbaran, they had so much cruising speed that the others in the race who would have been asked to do the pace making job, were flatfooted.

Zurbaran (Martin Dywer up) , winnin the Indian Turf Invitation Cup from Fabulous Star (B Prakash up)

Zurbaran , winner of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup being led in by owners, Trainer S Padmanabhan and Jockey Martin Dwyer. Byram Jeejeebhoy is third from left while Mr & Mrs K N Dhunjibhoy are to the right of the picture. Mrs Sharmila Padmanabhan is extreme left while Mr Narielwalla is to the extreme right.

Byram Jeejeebhoy, Mr & Mrs K N Dhunjibhoy pose with the trophies

Trainer S Padmanabhan receiving his momento.

Jockey Malesh Narredu took Noble Eagle to the front as the starter dispatched the field for the mile long trip, with Zurbaran close on his heels. Martin Dwyer rode a fine tactical race, breathing down the neck of the front-runner, not allowing any scope for Narredu to relax for a moment. The fancied runners, Classical Act, Fabulous Star were in close attendance a few lengths adrift. Dwyer let Noble Eagle lead the field into the final bend at which part he pushed Zurbaran to take charge and the Nanoli Stud Farm produce quickened nicely to open up a winning lead. The reserves ran out of Noble Eagle faded out from the scene well before the race took a serious turn. Fabulous Star came up with a sustained run to add excitement but the front-runner was not definitely slackening and Zurbaran was galloping on resolutely to win by a shade over a length. The surprise of the race was Rose Garden who held on gamely to edge out Amber Regent for the third slot. Classical Act was handily placed and had every chance in the race but the son of Placerville is still to overcome the ill effects of a severe setback. If given a long rest, Classical Act will bounce back.

"Dwyer first at the wire’’, greeted Sinclair Marshall, the President of Jockeys Association of India. Dwyer rode a perfect race and what is more, he had read the contenders well and knew what his horse was capable of." I will not let Noble Eagle run away from me,’’ he had said in the press conference prior to the race. And he precisely did that.

Full marks to trainer Padmanabhan who recorded his second winner in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup through Zurbaran. He had kept Zurbaran in tremendous condition despite the hard campaign and this is where most other trainers faltered. For the Dhunjibhoys who bred the winner, this was the first success in this prestigious race. They own the horse in partnership with Byram Jeejeebhoy.

K N Dhunjibhoy was greatly lated by the success of Zurbaran. "I am speechless. I am very happy at the way Zurbaran has acquitted himself. He is surely a stallion prospect for me,'' he said. Part owner Byram Jeejeebhoy said: ``Zurbaran is the best horse I ever owned. The win in the biggest race of the Indian racing calendar has given me immense satisfaction.''  Zurbaran’s greatness lies in his versatility and his wins have come in various testing tracks.

Capt Jamshed Appoo loves to lead in winners but he finds it hard to digest if his wards fail to live up to expectations. Palazzio was considered a certainty to win the Gr 1 Sprinters Cup but when she failed to succeed narrowly, the disappointed owner left for his home Mumbai, not wanting to stay back to see if the six-year old race mare would make amends in the Gr 1 P K Mehra Memorial Super Mile. It was a pity Appoo was not there to bask in the glory when Palazzio smashed the field, with a record-breaking effort to boot.

Jockey Martin Dwyer receiving the memento.

Zurbaran (Martin Dwyer up), winner of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup being led in by trainer S Padmanabhan.

Name And Fame who had come with an imposing record from Bangalore, was the overwhelming favourite to win, with Palazzio, essaying the mile long trip for the first time, receiving support in select circles. That was because many felt that the hard race in the Sprinters Cup would adversely affect the mare’s chances. They were left to rue their decision as Palazzio won in tremendous fashion.

Indian 1000 Guineas winner Free Radical who runs best when running in front, led the field till the final bend. At this point, Shamaal surged ahead but her lead was short lived as Palazzio sizzled past the opposition to win in a shade over two lengths, in a record timing of one minutes 37.5 seconds. Vivid Dreams who was none too well placed at the top of the straight, covered plenty of ground but narrowly missed the runner-up berth to Shamaal who held on gamely.



Scroll of honour: Sprinters Cup Scroll of honour: Stayers Cup


Other Race's snapshots

Indian Native (P Eddery up), winning the Chennai Trophy.

Indian Native (P Eddery up), winner of the Chennai Trophy being
led in by owners Tegbir Brar, A.K.S Brarand trainer Rafaat Hussain.

Senor Pele (Pesi Shroff up). winning the Kolkata Trophy.

Senor Pele (Pesi Shroff up), winner of the Kolkata Trophy being
led in by trainer J S Dhariwal.

Grosvenor Square (Davin Badel up) winning the Japan Trophy.

Grosvenor Square (Davin Badel up) winner of the Japan
Trophy being led in by owner and trainer D Byramji..

Soviet Square (R B Shinde up), winning the B Seenaiah &
Company Lts Nagarjuna Sagar Trophy

Soviet Square (R B Shinde up), winner of the B Seenaiah &
Company Lts Nagarjuna Sagar Trophy being led in by trainer Prasad.

Palazzio (M Narredu up), winning the MAJ P K Mehra Memorial
Super Mile Cup.

Palazzio (M Narredu up), winner of the MAJ P K Mehra Memorial
Super Mile Cup being led in by trainer C D Katrak.

Aware (I Chisty up), winning the Mumbai Trophy
from Shearwalk (Harish up).

Aware (I Chisty up), winner of the Mumbai Trophy being led in by
owners and trainer SK Kassam.

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