Mr. Subir Dasgupta & Mr. Manoj Kr. Bhagat & trainer Javed Khan leading Poles Apart (C Alford Up), winner of The Eastern Command Cup
Those who were present at the Calcutta racecourse on Saturday must have got more than what they bargained for. A well-backed double of Shailesh Shinde, a couple of quietly fancied runners at high odds, a rank outsider, an opening shot from Christopher Alford at 3/1 and to top it all – a totally unwarranted and uncalled for disruption by an unruly section of the crowd who are obviously ignorant of certain facts about the Calcutta track.
The main event, The Diabolical Trophy, saw Patrick Quinn-trained River Star (Warrshan-Precieux Act) pull off a calculated victory in the hands of Aadesh Kumar. The property of the renowned Wadhwan stable was available at 7/1 as money poured in on both Ares and Oriental Diana. Zillionaire set the early pace but was overhauled by Ares in the straight. Six-year-old River Star was the best horse on handicap and challenged Ares inside the furlong. A couple of cracks saw him surge ahead for a well-deserved triumph. The favourite Oriental Dian tried her utmost but failed to match strides with her rivals after the distance post. Nevertheless, she will be worth keeping an eye on in the future.
After a day’s respite, Christopher Alford was back with a bang as he steered Javed Khan-trained Poles Apart (Black Cash-Winning Spurs) to a creditable win in The Eastern Command Cup, the day’s opening event. The favourite Ocean Myth was a tardy beginner and graced the wrong end of the field. Poles Apart took over the running as heads turned for home and then staved off a strong challenge from Mesmerizer. Starrer was outpaced.
The Lt Gen Jameel Mahmood Memorial Cup turned out to be a one-horse race after the distance post. Vijay Singh-trained Raffles (Inhabitant-Arcade) was pushed to the helm of affairs by apprentice Ajoy Roy in the straight and pulled away from front-running Imperial Star without any trouble whatsoever. Flightning finished on from the rear to occupy the runner-up spot.
All hell broke loose as Jasbir Singh-trained Bhima (International-Tapioca) pipped front-running Vence at the wire in the running of the Aleksei Handicap. The favourite Vence had brushed aside Secret Gloss and seemed headed for a comfortable victory. However, Mohit Singh on the handicap-horse Bhima had other ideas. He was in fifth spot along the rails and a couple of cracks saw the gelding begin to drift out towards the outer railing. He was however gaining ground at a considerable rate in the final 100 metres and got the better of the favourite at the wire by the proverbial whisker. Three experienced correspondents of English dailies sitting in line with the finish were in no doubt that Bhima had won, even with the naked eye. A section of the crowd however got carried away and disrupted the proceedings by pelting stones. Most of them appeared to be troublemakers who had no clue about the nuances of the local track. The fact is that the stands do not run parallel to the track hence there is about an yard of difference between the finishing points of the inner and outer railings. From the grandstand, what looks a certainty along the inner rails is a pure aberration of the eye and nothing else. Fortunately, the cops swung into action and picked up a few of the culprits before further damage could be done.
Thankfully, favourites ruled the next two races as Shailesh Shinde piloted Exxin (Sussex-Fine Glance) and Ardent N Graceful past the post. Top-weight Lake Sunrise running in the Moon Emperor Handicap hit the front early but drifted out alarmingly in the straight, taking Exxin with him while Divine Symphony was making her run along the rails. By changing his whiphand and urging his mount, Shinde managed to pull away from the troublesome Lake Sunrise before anything untoward could happen. Javed Khan-trained Ardent N Graceful (Black Cash-Dasahara) was simply too good for the second in demand Star Wager in the Aristotle Handicap.
The curtain came down with rank outsider Stand Apart (Gaswar-Here She Comes) getting the better of the hot favourite Azorian in a maidens race. Shezad Khan rode the winner who responded well to his urging despite being erratic in the straight.