Mr Haresh N Mehta & trainer Mansoor Shah leading Ancient Wonder (David Allan Up), winner of The Morellato by Gitanjali Lifestyle Million
Ancient Wonder won the Morellato by Gitanjali Lifestyle Million in a thrilling finish, but there was a dramatic incident at the very start of the race. Irish Jockey Richard Hughes, who is hugely popular in India, showed he is only human, by reacting in an unfair manner in the race when Elizabeth, with Zervan astride, closed-in alongside Richard-ridden Star Trainer. This happened moments after the horses jumped out of the gates.
Star Trainer was quick to shoot into the lead and soon Elizabeth joined him on the outside. Along the first curve, Elizabeth came in slightly and in the process got alongside Star Trainer. Sensing Elizabeth was getting far too close, Richard stuck out his elbow and shoved Zervan away. Whether it was an evasive action or an ill-tempered reaction, only Richard would tell, but the senior jockey physically elbowed out Zervan in an unacceptable manner prompting the stripes to report the incident to the Stewards and initiate an enquiry. The stipendiary stewards slapped the charge of ‘Foul Riding’ against Richard and following the stewards’ enquiry, Star Trainer was disqualified.
Coming back to the fight on the turf, Star Trainer drifted out on entering the straight leaving plenty of room for the others to capitalize on. Ancient Wonder, who was in the mid-bunch all the way, made a dash for the opening. Hatsuhana too got firing and Beautiful Stranger made his move from the outside. Attila, who was at the tail end of the field, began to get closer to the front bunch. In the final furlong, Ancient Wonder, well ridden by David Allan, surged ahead and quickened remarkably to land the rich purse of over Rs 700,000. These were impressive back-to-back victories for Ancient Wonder who is in sublime form this season. Star Trainer’s good effort came to a naught, solely due to the uncalled for aggression showed by Richard, who, with his commendable success and experience, should have known better. Attila, contrary to his last run, chose to settle in the rear and that proved fatal. Portrush showed glimpses of returning to form with a fine run to finish in the money. Hatsuhana too, ran well within herself to gain place money after Star Trainer’s disqualification. Siachen was the one to disappoint and ran an inexplicably poor race.
Richard had a mixed day winning two of his five rides and was the lone professional to log a double on the day. Ocean Odyssey (Diffident – Caractere) provided a clean start-to-finish victory in the lower division of the New Year Trophy. Carrying the top weight and the widest draw, Richard did well to guide Ocean Odyssey to the front with a clean sweeping move in getting close to the inner rails. It was smooth sailing from there on. Ocean Odyssey entered the straight with a handy two-length lead and then stretched out nicely to post a very comfortable win without encountering any resistance. Stuntacular who was always second, ran on chasing the winner all the way home. Mountain N Dales improved towards the finish and edged out Ashwa Safari to bag the place money.
Richard struck again in the last race of the day astride Remniscing (Storm Trooper – My Tres Bien) at nourishing odds. Savage Garden led the field with Royal Connection in chase along with Perfect Moment. Visionaire, the favourite, was well in touch with the front bunch, as was Remniscing. As they entered the straight, Savage Garden did not look as gutsy as he did last time and wilted before long. Royal Connection took charge briefly and soon Visionaire progressed to join Royal Connection. The duo was battling hard past the distance post, when Richard set Remniscing alight. The mare responded brilliantly to sail past the fighting pair and romp home to a convincing victory, giving ample indication of similar successes in the near future. Visionaire was not only beaten by a superior mare but also lost the runner up berth to a late bid from Cavalryman. Brave Gypsy covered good ground to finish one off the frame.
Silver Birch (Indesatchel – Safinaz) pulled off a sensational start-to-finish triumph completely out-foxing race-time hot favourite Winds of the North. Zervan galloped to the front with Silver Birch and travelled at a decent clip. Maple Star soon joined Silver Birch while Wind of the North settled close behind these two.
On turning for home, Silver Birch shook off Maple Star but soon had Wind of the North seemingly travelling extremely well on his outside. In a sudden move, Zervan took off with Silver Birch and shot away with quick acceleration. Hughes desperately tried to get Wind of the North to match that turn of foot, but to no avail. Silver Birch had stolen a march and Zervan got Silver Birch to stretch away majestically to score a facile victory with ridiculous ease. Wind of the North gained on the winner only slightly towards the end but there was no question on Silver Birch being clearly superior on the day. Wind of the North may have been awe-struck by the sudden surge of Silver Birch and given another chance, would come into his own, sooner than later.
Spirit of Mercy (Tirol – Cozumel) looked the pick in the paddock and carried that positive stature through to the track. He took off to a alert start and led the field going at a steady pace all through. The popular fancy Magdalena just couldn’t find her rhythm and off the frame without making any impact. Spirit of Mercy grew stronger in the straight and built a healthy lead soon on turning for home. Aslan tried hard to take on the leader but Spirit of Mercy, ridden by apprentice Akshay, was relentless. Akshay was confident and did not loosen his grip on the race, pushing and plodding all the way to the winning post. Flashforward too tried hard but could only do enough to end earning place money.
The bookies made a clean sweep in the day’s first race itself earning a capital of the entire day’s business. Desert Eagle (Placerville – Desert Lightening) who had never figured in the judge’s frame in any of his six starts to date, chose the auspicious New Year’s Day to make his mark in the winners’ circle.
Word of Honour reared up awkwardly just as the gates flung open and lost considerable ground at the start. Friendly too missed the kick but made rapid progress. Solid Rock hit the front with Double Diamond moving into second spot. Word of Honour spent his efforts in wiping off the initial deficit. Desert Eagle was not too far behind keeping an eagle eye on the front-runners. Double Diamond got past Solid Rock soon on turning for home and took charge. She was at the helm for a few strides before the others behind started to gain on her. Machala in particular, looked fast in cutting off the lead past the distance post, which is when Desert Eagle too made a forward surge. When these two came to challenge, Double Diamond had lost the edge. The new pair easily surged past the favourite and Desert Eagle kept his tempo going all the way to ward off the stiff challenge posted by Machala. The weight certainly told on Double Diamond and she had to be content in finishing third.
Awesome Smile (China Visit – Subsonic) made her connections smile alright, with a powerful finish, landing the spoils despite taking the turn wide. Conztanza led then into the straight but was soon collared by Etesian. Awesome Smile took an exaggerated turn and then set about making his final charge. Etesian had a slender lead approaching the distance post, however, when Awesome Smile got into top gear, he managed to snuff out every challenger on his way to a second successive victory this season. Persian came from some distance away to take the third spot with a sustained effort. Mishri ended fourth keeping her record of finishing in the frame every run, intact.
Apprentice jockey Prabhu Naidu made a ravishing start to the year registering his first victory on the famed Mahalaxmi track. Partnering Stringsofmyheart, Naidu sat second behind favourite Aflame and tailed the leader until well into the straight. Aflame enjoyed a handy lead within the final 400, but first, Mountain Mynah and more forcefully Stringsofmyheart posed a serious challenge. Aflame tided over Mountain Mynah’s bid, but Stringsofmyheart was far too fast in her finish. She stormed ahead in the final furlong and ran away from them all. Aflame did well to stay on for the runner-up berth and Mountain Mynah was unlucky to have a charged up Hottie just managing to pip her for the third place.