Scarlette (Ryan Marshall Up), winner of The Nilgiris Trophy Div-I
An ordinary looking card of eight events was framed for Friday's racing at Bangalore. In the absence of a top-class event, a seven furlong handicap for horses five years old and over in Class II, occupied the pride of place as the day's feature. The Nilgiri's Trophy managed to attract a large number of acceptors, and the race had to be split in two. The nine runners in the upper division seemed closely matched. Make My Day had run a forward race in her earlier start. Since the apprentice had been unable to offer much assistance from the saddle, trainer Byramji had decided to ask Suraj to guide her fortunes today. Irfan's Soberano had been making late bids over a sprint this season. He was getting a chance to travel over a marginally longer distance in this race, and it was felt that he may perform better over the present trip. Mighty Heart was a talented horse, but he was a bit unreliable. It was difficult to back him with conviction. The race had a very "open' look and the same was reflected on the betting boards. Make My Day was a marginal favourite ahead of the others.
Finding the initial pace a bit too slow, Suraj eased Make My Day into an early lead ahead of Mighty Heart, Lads Gladiator and Soberano. For a change, Ryan Marshal chose to campaign Scarlette from the back. She had settled nicely in mid-division and the five of them were racing in close proximity of each other. The pace became stronger in the straight. Make My Day increased her momentum and kicked clear of the others. With most of them fading out of contention, it was left to Scarlette to go in chase. The chestnut put her head down and galloped. With Ryan riding competently, Scarlette ranged alongside Make My Day and engaged her in a duel. It became obvious that we were going to witness a real close finish. Scarlette improved the tempo and managed to beat Make My Day near the winning post. Lads Gladiator saved place money for his connections, while Soberano got distinctly tired over this longish trip.
A seven furlong event for maiden three year olds was positioned as the first race of the day. Irfan Ghatala's Diamonite started as the shortest priced favourite on Friday. The filly had run a very nice race on debut, when she had finished a close fourth to Sweet Secret and Motivating. Irfan had chosen to deprive BL Paswan the use of a whip on that day, as he had felt that a debutante need not be punished unnecessarily. After a slightly sluggish start, Diamonite had moved well thereafter. She was entrusted to Suraj today. He allowed PS Chouhan and Chiron to lead till the 300 metre marker, before she arrived on the scene. Diamonite made steady progress in the final furlong and wasn't hard-pressed while registering her maiden victory. Runner-up Chiron is sure to improve after today's experience. Sussex Downs and Alderson filled the rest of the frame.
Hardly a point separates the leading professionals from each other, as we head towards the final stages of the Winter Season. It is learnt that the BTC authorities have decided to add a couple of days of racing in lieu of the loss of action that was suffered due to labour problems. Irfan Ghatala and Sharat Kumar, as also, PS Chouhan and Suraj Narredu are locked in a close battle for supremacy. While Irfan won the day's opener with the above mentioned Diamonite, Sharat was quick to respond with a "double". Jockey Henrique rode brilliantly to score with Smile All The Way and Magnitude Star for his stable. In the hands of an apprentice, Smile All The Way had suffered from a hampered passage in her previous start. There were no such problems today. While Sweet Timer dictated the early pace to Another Destiny, Smile All The Way and Anna were seen gracing the rear. Henrique put her under pressure in the straight and she responded magnificently. Without raising much of a sweat, Smile All The Way sauntered home to an easy victory over Anna and Sweet Timer. It was quite an incredible performance, as this was the fourth race she had won this season. In case Sharat manages to win the Trainer's Championship, a large portion of the credit for that achievement must go to Smile All The Way.
Henrique adopted different tactics astride Magnitude Star. Realizing that this horse runs his best races when sent to the front, Sharat must have asked the boy to do so. He led from the start and managed to retain his advantage till they crossed the wire. For a brief moment, it appeared as though Magnitude Star was going to get caught in the straight. Aztec Gold came towards the centre of the track, while Sunstorm moved menacingly along the inner rails. But, Henrique was alert to both these challenges. Getting Magnitude Star back on an even keel, he pushed him relentlessly. Magnitude Star lasted out to win in a three-way finish from Aztec Gold and Sunstorm. The other runners ended way behind the first three finishers.
Trainer Puttanna scored a long-priced double with Kalyan and Walter. Kalyan had poor recent form, and was therefore neglected from a betting perspective. With money flowing in the direction of Amit Caddy's Southern Pearl, the odds against most of the others began to expand rapidly. Since it was an event for horses in the lowest category, there were many runners that had little chance of winning this race. Southern Pearl improved her position near the bend, and moved ahead of the others. She responded further to Suraj's stick and opened a nice looking lead into the straight. Not many noticed the movements of Kalyan at this juncture. Seizing a wide opening towards the inner rails, Kalyan rushed towards the leader. Under some hard riding of Milan, the seven year old got up in the nick of time to beat the favourite on the post. Angel Queen made a late bid to occupy the third slot. This Sharat Kumar trainee may help her master to log another point before the close of the present season.
Walter's victory was much easier. This horse had been serving notice of his present form and condition by figuring on the frame regularly. It happened to be a rare class IV race, that was reserved for horses six years old and over. Yamaguchi, Jewel Lady and Redshift raced in front, while Walter lacked speed in the early stages of this race. The front-runners got tired in the straight and moved off the inner rails. Walter moved strongly from behind to wrest the initiative. Despite Imran Chisty's strong whipping, Yamaguchi faded into third. Jewel lady tried to make a race of it, but she wasn't able to match Walter's acceleration. With Vaibhav pushing him strongly, Walter sailed away for an easy victory. Favourite Redshift stopped like a pricked balloon and ended more than ten lengths behind the winner. Puttanna must be complimented for scoring with this pair of seven year olds, as they are scheduled to leave this centre by the end of March.
Darius Byramji's Inquisition received one sided support to win a Class III handicap. The seven furlong trip was suited to his style of running and the opponents looked quite ordinary. Allowing Suraj ridden Gun Salute to lead on sufferance, Imran Chisty managed to settle Inquisition behind a wall of horses, as they tackled the first half of their journey. North Cape and Ladzone were seen racing prominently till that stage. Wanting to stay away from traffic problems, Imran looked for room on the wide outside. The moment Inquisition saw "daylight", he decided to move. Devouring ground with each stride, he went ahead of the others. It ceased to be a contest thereafter, as Inquisition won by a widening margin from a tired Gun Salute and North Cape. The third placed North Cape is a readymade winner in his own age group. Prithviraj is sure to exploit him over a similar trip before the end of winter.
The most exciting finish of the day was reserved for the very end. Manohar trained Sutton Prince was a firm favourite ahead of Living Legend and the others in the last race of the afternoon. PS Chouhan brought Sutton Prince with a smooth run from an extreme outside draw, and the pair were soon at the helm of affairs. Racing well within himself, the favourite looked fairly comfortable till they straightened for home. It was at this stage that Catamaran joined the issue. Creeping slowly on the wide outside, he came with a length of the leader. While Chouhan was making free use of his whip, apprentice Sahanawaz was content to use his hands and heels. Hidayat Khan's Catamaran got up in time to win by a short head at the finish. Monreale did well to end a respectable third.