Miss Ameeta Mehra, Mr. Kishore M Dingra & trainer P Shroff leading Attila (B Prakash Up), winner of The Oasis Star Sprinters Cup Grade-I
The Golden Jubilee Invitation Weekend got off to an exciting start at The Bangalore Turf Club, with the traditional running of The Sprinter's Cup as well as The Stayer's Cup on Saturday. The Kunigal Stud Million for first season horses adding lustre to the nine event card, and the action was studded with some brilliant performances. With a majority of the races being won by relative "outsiders", the punters were at the receiving end throughout the afternoon. The authorities had announced a number of prizes for correctly nominating the winners of these three "big" races. A single racegoer picked Attila, Swiss Don and Jersey Girl to walk away with the car on offer, while the other prizes went a begging. Outstation challengers Attila and Swiss Don managed to score thrilling victories in their respective events.
A big group of sixteen were declared to start in The Oasis Star Sprinter's Cup (Grade I). Named after a filly who also scored back-to-back victories in this prestigious race, a glistening trophy and a rich purse of Rupees 24 Lakhs awaited the winner. Pesi Shroff's Attila had won this race last year. Despite a couple of lacklustre outings at Mahalakshmi in winter, his trainer was quite hopeful today. Attila had finished way behind Forest Flair, Bespoke and Ancient Wonder in The Sprinter's Championship in the middle of February. However, he had been thriving in the Bangalore climate ever since his arrival, and was seen working well on the training track. In an open betting event, Forest Flair, Sprint Star and Ancient Wonder shared favouritism at 5/1 each. Sprint Star was definitely the best amongst the local challengers. He had been conceding chunks of weight to Optimus Prime, Successor, Secret Punch and Valahak in earlier clashes, and was meeting them at level terms today. Even though he was known to be better suited over a marginally longer trip, there were many who felt that he would be able to deliver the goods in this race. Those lucky enough to be drawn on the inside were sure to benefit in such a large field.
Attila took a smart jump from an inner draw and managed to occupy the box seat behind Windsor Manor and Beautiful Stranger as they took the first turn near the nine hundred metre marker. Forest Flair, Ancient Wonder, Successor and Sprint Star raced in close order as the field began to bunch up near the bend. Under some vigorous pushing from Chouhan, Beautiful Stranger seized the initiative and set sail for home. He was a couple of lengths clear of Attila and Sprint Star near the two furlong marker. Prakash had pulled out his stick on Attila while Suraj had done the same on Sprint Star. Successor moved menacingly towards the rails along with Ancient Wonder on the wide outside. It became evident that we were heading for a breath-taking finish. With Attila enjoying a half length lead near the distance post and Prakash riding with all his acumen, this stout hearted sprinter retained his hold over the proceedings. In a four way finish, where all of them ranged between a length of each other, Attila scored ahead of Sprint Star, Successor and Ancient Wonder. The winner wrote his name in the history books to become the third horse to win The Sprinter's Cup in consecutive years.
With the withdrawal of Lad Lady at the starting gates, The Stayer's Cup field was reduced to twelve. Here again, one saw Dhariwal's Arabian Prince trying to repeat last year's performance. On all known form, he looked like a formidable opponent. The only question mark over his head was about his fitness. A couple of easy workouts after his victory exactly a month ago was all that was known about his present form. The gruelling trip of 3000 metres needed a runner to be at his best, and this was going to play a big role in the final outcome of this race. Arabian Prince started as a 5/2 favourite ahead of Macchupicchu and Star Marquess. The last named along with Swiss Don were the two four year olds with current form in this race. Star Marquess had run well at Mumbai, while Swiss Don had finished a late second to Southern Bay in the Winter Derby at Malakpet. Furthermore, they enjoyed a weight advantage of five kilos over their older rivals.
No-hopers Camorra and Don Valentino tore away from the pack and tried to set a good pace ahead of Macchupicchu, Arabian Prince, Star Marquess, Ordained One and Allez Vite as they traversed the first half of their journey. Shehzad Abbas trained Swiss Don was seen travelling at the back. He had only one behind him, and that was Native Knight. The order remained more or less the same as they started climbing near the 800 metre marker. The scene changed alarmingly thereafter. The front-runners ran out of steam while the ones at the back tried to move forward. Seizing an opening towards the inner rails, Imran Khan gave a couple of cracks to Swiss Don and roused him to quicken. Just as Allez Vite hit the front ahead of a heavily whipped Arabian Prince, we saw the yellow cap of Swiss Don. He came with a strong gallop on the outside and managed to wrest the initiative. After a brief duel with Allez Vite in the final furlong, Swiss Don emerged as a likely winner. However, the race wasn't over. In the hands of P Trevor, Native Knight dug deep into his reserves of stamina and came charging towards the leader. Swiss Don and Native Knight fought a real intense battle till the pair crossed the wire. Only a short-neck separated the two of them after a strong gallop over Three Kilometres. Allez Vite ended a close third while Arabian Prince was a poor fourth. Most of the others were totally exhausted and were seen literally "walking" past the winning post.
The Kunigal Stud Million was a terms affair, wherein, winners were conceding weight to maidens. First-timer Shivalik Dew was fancied alongside Athletic Star and State Secret. All three connections thought very highly of their respective wards. Even though State Secret had been beaten by the Puttanna trained Jersey Girl in her only outing, it was felt that since it was State Secret's first outing, she would be able to reverse the verdict with her vanquisher. Nothing of the sort happened. With Henrique in the saddle, Jersey Girl set a scorching pace and ran away from her rivals. State Secret chased her till the closing stages of the race before losing her second spot to Esteban. Athletic Star ran all over the place to finish a poor fifth. Shivalik Dew lost ground at the start and never recovered from it. The most impressive runner in this race was Esteban. He looks like a readymade winner in his next start. It was a fitting finale to The Kunigal Stud Million, as a runner bred at the farm won this event.
Imran Chisty was the lone professional to score a double on Saturday. He set the ball rolling with an armchair ride to victory astride Amit Caddy's Sicily. The small made horse had finished fourth in his previous start. With a positive switch in the saddle, and some impressive track work in the interim, Sicily was backed with confidence to lift The Japan Trophy. Chisty allowed his mount to run comfortably till the bend before pressing the accelerator. Sicily bounded forward and skipped clear of Amber Star and Neel Gagan. The winning margin of five lengths tells the rest of the story. His other victory astride Faraz Arshad's Affirmative in the lower division of The Sans Craintes Trophy was gained with equal ease. This runner had flopped as an odds-on choice in his last start, when he had burst a blood vessel during the running of that race. Affirmative overtook Bryant Park in the straight and tore away from him. I Specialist rallied late under the stick to save place money for his followers. Favourite Migrolino was another public choice to bite the dust.
The upper division of The Sans Craintes Trophy witnessed a close finish between Ben Ten and Shivalik Prince. Here too, the favourite Chul Bul Pandy had no answers to the onslaught of the first two finishers. Srinath ridden Ben Ten had a comfortable lead in the final furlong, but his outward drift under pressure allowed Shivalik Prince and Anjar Alam to come closer. After consulting the digital camera, the judge declared the result. Ben Ten had won by a nose from Shivalik Prince. A public announcement, after a while, confirmed that the Stewards had ordered an enquiry into the result of this race. After a further period of time, it was announced that there was a dead-heat in this race. There are a couple of things that confused race goers. The authorities chose to keep the details of this enquiry as a well guarded secret. This was also the first time that there was no live relay of the proceedings of a Stewards Enquiry at this centre. While acknowledging that the digital timer had separated the two horses by a third decimal point, they had chosen to declare such a result. The Bangalore Turf Club is sure to give the finer details leading to such a decision in its "Racing Incidents”, which are sure to be published in the next few days. It is really confusing, as a similar finish in the Colts Championship during the Bangalore Summer Season had seen Pronto Pronto beating Speed Six by a whisker.
Dominic trained Point Taken, who had shown improvement in her two starts, managed to eke out a narrow victory in a maiden's event over Firelight and Quick Enough. Strongly fancied Wind Stream failed to gain momentum in the straight, and finished an unimpressive fourth. PS Chouhan brought Point Taken with a run on the wide outside to go past a bunch of tired horses and managed to stay in front till the very end. Both Firelight and Quick Enough made up much ground to figure in a close finish. Jockey Chris Hayes was hampered at the start and he did well to recover from that skirmish. His strong finish enabled Quick Enough to raise a fluent gallop in the closing stages of this race. The dark bay is sure to win a race before the end of this season.
Chris Hayes had an easier time astride Ganapathy's Fantastic Strike. Running in a seven furlong handicap for horses rated 20-45, Fantastic Strike was receiving a lot of weight from the others. In addition to that, he had been subjected to some steady preparation in the last few weeks. Despite his wide draw, the 70/100 favourite leapt out of the gates and raced prominently throughout the race. Overtaking Thejaguar near the bend, Fantastic Strike powered away for an easy victory over a late finishing Hot Stuff. Now that the winner has revealed his true potential, Ganapathy is sure to exploit him in the future.