Trainer F Sirajuddin leading Win Again (P S Chouhan Up), winner of The Stewards Trophy
A stout-hearted performance from Sirajuddin's Win Again in The Stewards Trophy highlighted an eight event card conducted at The Bangalore Turf Club on Saturday. Reverting back to sprinting, the four year old won in a nail-biting finish from Valahak, Accurate and Rare And Precious. The closeness of this victory can be gauged from the verdict announced by the judge. Only a neck separated the first four runners. For owner-trainer Sirajuddin, this was a memorable occasion. After Secret Punch's success in The Sprinter's Trial Stakes, Win Again was the second four year old from his small yard that had succeeded in top class company. Being a sprint handicap for horses rated 80 and above, the race attracted some of the fastest horses based at this centre. Recent form pointed towards Kyles Of Bute and Rare And Precious as the likely winners of this race. The former had ended a good third behind Bold Police and Sovetskaya over a marginally longer trip on "Invitation" day. He headed the betting boards all morning ahead of Rare And Precious, Accurate and Win Again. However, there was late support for Sharat Kumar's Smooth Glider. Since the stable had been firing on all cylinders in the last few weeks, the bookmaker's were wary of laying runners from his yard. For reasons known only to his connections, Smooth Glider started as a clear 2/1 favourite to land the day's feature.
Taking off smartly from a wide draw, Win Again and PS Chouhan bolted to the front and set a good pace ahead of Accurate, Smooth Glider, Rare And Precious and Valahak. Kyles Of Bute lacked early speed and it took him a while to find his rhythm. The order remained the same as the runners made their journey towards the straight. Only half a length separated Win Again from Accurate as they made their final dash. With the support of the inner rails, Win Again gained momentum and went further ahead of the others. Suraj pulled out all stops on Accurate and asked him to"go". At almost the same juncture, Valahak moved menacingly towards the centre of the track while Rare And Precious essayed his challenge through the pack. It became apparent that we were headed for a real close finish. That is exactly what happened. Win Again lasted out to win by a short head from Valahak. Accurate and Rare And Precious were only a neck behind in third and fourth slots. Kyles Of Bute appeared late on the scene to finish behind the four of them. Through sheer grit and determination, Chouhan had literally lifted the winner accross the wire.
The jockey's championship this season has generated a lot of excitement. While Friday's action was dominated by Suraj, it was Chouhan's turn to respond on Saturday. He responded by hitting a "four", thereby regaining the lead that he had surrendered yesterday to his equally talented colleague. The two of them managed to win eleven out of the sixteen events that were on offer this weekend. This augered well for the punters, who were quick to capitalize on this scenario. The balance seems marginally tilted in favour of Chouhan, who looks determined to corner the honours. The Stewards have chosen to include the results of the two extra day's while deciding the winner. Since Suraj has picked up a two day suspension for an "excessive whipping" offence astride Castro, and will consequently miss the action over the last weekend of winter racing, Chouhan is sure to capitalize on the situation. His other winners on Saturday were Mi Amor, Real Steel and Migrolino.
He combined effectively with trainer Dhariwal to score a couple of points for his stable. The first one was achieved with Mi Amor. The filly was carrying the top weight in a class IV race, and was running over a favourable mile today. Frame Partner, who had flopped as an on-money favourite a few weeks ago, was her only serious opponent. Since Chouhan had ridden Frame Partner that day, he perhaps knew the habits of his "danger". Mi Amor made steady progress through the back-stretch and led into the straight, while Frame Partner rambled in the rear. It was only in the final furlong that Frame Partner found his galloping shoes, but by that time, it was all over. Mi Amor had established a winning lead and was travelling comfortably towards the winning post. A hard ridden Strive And Serve held onto his third place.
It was a change of tactics by Chouhan, that helped Migrolino score his first victory this season. The last time Young Achiever and Migrolino had clashed over a similar trip, it was the former that had finished way ahead of the latter. Moving steadily from behind that day, all Migrolino could do was to finish a tame third. It was for this very reason that Young Achiever started as an odds-on choice in The Smt Satyavathi V Char Memorial Cup. Chouhan decided to make his own pace today. He pushed Migrolino to the front and showed the way to Young Achiever and African Queen. They raced in similar order till they reached the business-end of this event. Suraj cajoled Young Achiever to go closer to the leader, but it was all in vain. Migrolino was in no mood to give up, and in fact, was seen getting stronger at the finish. Young Achiever and African Queen had to be content with the minor placings.
Chouhan's fourth winner of the afternoon was Real Steel. The light framed juvenile had been doing some great work on the training track. In the absence of a strong opponent, Real Steel started as the shortest priced horse of the day. After missing the kick and losing ground at the start, Real Steel was seen improving on the outside. He overtook Gol Matol and Amazon Bay in the straight and went on to seal an impressive maiden victory. Amazon Bay and Jeyem's Pride saved place money for their connections. Gol Matol ran like a scalded cat for a little more than three furlongs before she called it a day.
A well-backed Cool Whistle landed the spoils in the opening race of the afternoon. For the third consecutive time this season, Sharat Kumar's Fantabulous Star took down a lot of money. Both Cool Whistle and Fantabulous Star raced close to each other as the runners traversed the first half of their journey. They raced in mid group behind Attractor, Voodoo Moon and Chantilly Jewel till the top of the straight. John was the first to move astride Cool Whistle. He gave a couple of cracks to the five years old and opened up a nice looking lead into the final furlong. HG Rathod woke up a bit too late. He extricated Fantabulous Star from an imaginary traffic jam and went in chase. Even though the chestnut made up a lot of ground on Cool Whistle, he was shy at the wire.
The Sharat Kumar stable had a lot to cheer when Another Voice ran away with a Class IV race later in the afternoon. This horse had lost on the post to a younger No Doubt only a week ago. Getting an opportunity to race against horses in his own age group, Another Voice was upto his task. In the hands of Henrique, he came from way off the pace and sailed away from Brave Cat and Trillion Win. Second-in-demand Jack O Lantern ran in patches to finish off the frame. He is another horse that has let down his followers on a number of occasions this winter.
Irfan Ghatala's pair of Shivalik Prince and public favourite Hillfiger fought out a thrilling battle in a sprint event reserved for horses in class II. Both these horses came from way off the pace to figure in a close finish near the winning post. After Ben Ten had overtaken Casanova near the furlong marker, the two runners appeared on the scene. Suraj moved strongly along with Hillfiger and seemed to have the race under control. He did not notice Anjar Alam and Shivalik Prince gainig ground along the inside rails. In a bobbing of heads, Shivalik Prince was declared the winner. Ben Ten ran gallantly to finish a close third. Casanova and Thoughts N Actions were clearly outpaced in this race.
Suraj finally managed to win a race with his last mount of the day. Amit Caddy trained Bounty Hunter had run a forward race in his last start. Despite being handled by an inexperienced rider, he had shown that he was ready to strike. However, he had to contend with Cowboy Cal today. This was another runner who had stormed home to take the second spot behind Provocateur exactly seven day's ago. The present trip of seven furlongs was better suited to Bounty Hunter, as Cowboy Cal was known to relish a longer trip. John tried to steal the race by rushing Cowboy Cal into a small lead near the bend, but Suraj was alert to the situation. He pulled out his stick and continued to urge Bounty Hunter. The top-weight rallied brilliantly, gained the upper hand and ran away from Cowboy Cal.