Arabian Prince (Anthony Crastus Up), winner of The Stayers Trial Stakes
The Sprinter's Trial Stakes as well as The Stayer's Trial Stakes featured a long card of nine events held at Bangalore on Friday. The two races are traditionally conducted to select the nominees from Bangalore for the racing action over the "Invitation weekend". Both the races produced exciting finishes, and the margin between the first three horses in either event was quite close. While it was a case of "bad luck" for Optimus Prime in the sprint, there were no hard luck stories in the longer race. Optimus Prime was the favourite ahead of his younger opponents. Highly regarded sprinters like Silken Touch, Secret Punch and Bourne Supreme had won this season and progressed to the highest class. But, the four year olds had not been tested thus far in "terms" company. A mere comparison based on present weights and ratings showed that Optimus Prime had the best chance in this race. He was supported accordingly and installed as the first favourite ahead of Silken Touch, Valahak, Secret Punch and the others.
At a modest pace, Valahak and Silken Touch did the front-running and showed the way to Bourne Supreme and Secret Punch. While Rare And Precious made some progress towards the outer portion of the track, it was Optimus Prime who was seen struggling on the rails. He was the worst affected by the jostling that took place at that stage. Being hampered for room, John had no option but to drop him right through the field, and the pair was last of all as they entered the straight. The eight horses were spread right across the track near the two furlong marker. Valahak and Silken Touch were the first to cave-in under pressure and the two of them dropped out of contention. Imran Chisty brought Secret Punch with a flourish and took him ahead of the pack. Rare And Precious was his nearest challenger while Optimus Prime was noticed making his move from the rear. In an intense struggle for supremacy, Sirajuddin's Secret Punch lasted out to score by a narrow margin from a fast finishing Optimus Prime and Rare And Precious. Those who had backed Optimus Prime on Friday must consider themselves really unlucky, as he was definitely the best horse in The Sprinter's Trial Stakes.
There were only six runners in the other event. In the absence of many long distance races at this centre, a majority of the trainers at Bangalore are happy teaching their horses to sprint. Dhariwal trained Arabian Prince was an outstanding runner in this group. He had run as a top weight in a similar set a few weeks ago. With the terms loaded heavily in his favour, and the mile and a half suiting him to perfection, it was difficult to visualize an upset in this race. Even though an improving Sun Absolute had beaten him on the post over ten furlongs, the filly was badly off by almost seven kilos today. In a slow run race, Crown Empress showed the way to owner-mates Arabian Prince and Allez Vite for most of the way. While Ordained One was being scrubbed in mid group, Sun Absolute was gracing the rear. Suraj was happy to relax the filly at the back, and the pair remained in touch till they started to take the bend. Anthony Crastus showed some urgency in the straight. He pushed Arabian Prince and took him ahead of the others. Even though the favourite led at this stage, he did not show the expected acceleration. Sun Absolute made up a lot of ground in the final stages to reach within a length of the winner. It will be interesting to see how they shape up against each other in The Stayer's Cup during the first week of March.
The victory astride Arabian Prince saw Anthony Crastus completing his treble for the day. He had already scored with last outing winner Supremacy in the day's opener, and also with three year old Treasure Mountain in The RWITC Trophy. Bottom-weighted Supremacy took off to a nice start and made every post a winning one in a ten furlong handicap for horses in class II. Neil Darashah's fancied pair of Top Secret and Nadia took turns in challenging the leader. Top Secret's efforts came to a standstill near the distance post, while Nadia finished late occupying the runner-up berth. It was evident that apart from Supremacy, none of the others were comfortable over this extended trip. The Attaollahi trained winner has shown some good form in recent times.
Dominic's Stellar Ambition and Eshwer's Treasure Mountain received equal support in The RWITC Trophy. Both had won their maiden starts in exemplary fashion. While the former had beaten some good horses over a sprint on the local track, Treasure Mountain had won a seven furlong race at Mysore. The only yard stick to compare the two of them was the confidence of their respective camps. Even though these frontline contenders were carrying winning penalties, the others did not inspire confidence. It was touted as a match-race, and that is exactly what it turned out to be. Crastus used similar tactics with Treasure Mountain. Within the first few strides, he took his mount to the front and occupied the rails. This forced Stellar Ambition to travel wide for the rest of the way. The two market leaders sped away from their rivals. Despite PS Chouhan's free whipping, Stellar Ambition rolled out under pressure and failed to collar the leader. Treasure Mountain is a nice sort and it is learnt that he is headed to Mumbai to have a tilt at The Poonawalla Multimillion.
PS Chouhan had a number of strongly fancied runners in the nine event card. While he failed astride a few of them, he managed to score runaway victories with Royal Spirit and Wild Nexus. In an open betting event, the Puttanna trained Royal Spirit was the third favourite behind Summer Sun and Argentum. The jockey rode a copybook race astride this colt, as he tracked Raaga till the bend before making his charge. Royal Spirit lengthened his strides and ran away from a late finishing North Cape and Hillton. The two apprentice boys astride Summer Sun and Argentum failed to elicit any response from their respective mounts. Chouhan had an easier time while guiding Prithviraj's Wild Nexus across the wire. The horse was so much superior to his opponents that he left them standing in the straight. Wild Nexus made light of his heavy impost while scoring comfortably from Voodoo Moon, She's A Lady and Chantilly Jewel. The three placed horses finished in a heap alongside each other.
The other salient feature of the afternoon's proceedings was the performance of apprentice Sahanawaz. This recently licensed youngster rode with great maturity to win his maiden race with Darius Byramji's Grand Success on Friday. In a rare occurrence, he capped that effort by winning the very next race with Byramji's Mitraya. While Mitraya scored a runaway victory, Sahanawaz had to work really hard on Grand Success. After chasing Shivalik Prince till the straight, and wearing him down thereafter, Grand Success had to contend with a stiff challenge from Hackett. Whilst Harish was very aggressive astride Hackett, the youngster just put his head down and rode hands and heels. The two runners raced side-by-side for more than a furlong before they reached the winning post. Grand Success managed to scrape through in a close finish. A beaming Sahanawaz returned to the unsaddling enclosure. Heavily supported Saratoga Spring broke a blood vessel in the straight and had to be eased up before crossing the winning post.