Trainer Darius Byramji (Deputising for L V R Deshmukh ) leading Vijays Pride (P S Chouhan Up), winner of The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.I)
Rank outsider Vijay's Pride got up in time to cause a stunning upset in The Fillies Championship Stakes (Grade I) at the Bangalore races on Sunday. Starting as a 50/1 shot, the Hyderabad challenger performed like a seasoned campaigner. Tackling anything more than six furlongs for the first time, she proved her versatility. PS Chouhan gave her immaculate guidance from the saddle, and confirmed once again, that he is a top class rider. Not only the public, but even her trainer was perhaps caught napping. Since she was the only runner from the stable, Deshmukh had stayed back in Hyderabad on Sunday and requested Darius Byramji to deputize for him. The filly obviously gave him a pleasant surprise. Fifteen of them had agreed to take part in the first classic of the season. On all known form and present ratings, Maple Star and Portia looked better than the others. Both had won their lead-up races at this centre. The pair had last clashed over a mile at Mahalakshmi. On that day, Maple Star had given five kilos and a beating to Portia. Those who had been tracking their progress opined that Portia was looking better than before. According to them, she was as good as Maple Star today, and this race would be an extremely close affair. Both the camps were eagerly awaiting the outcome of this rivalry. The same sentiment was expressed on the betting boards. Even the bookmakers could not separate them, as they offered 17/10 against either filly. One could literally write one's own card on the other thirteen.
Maple Star's stablemate Turf Lightning set a decent pace ahead of State Secret, Angel's Kiss, Portia and Cocktail Circuit. Vijay's Pride and Jersey Girl settled nicely in mid-group while Maple Star was seen getting knocked around at this stage. Sreekanth was having a tough time getting her out of trouble, as she was caught between a bunch of no-hopers. The order remained more or less the same as they made their way towards the home turn. Turf Lightning continued her dominance in front as the field straightened for home. With her nearest pursuers getting tired, we saw some new challengers. Portia surged forward and collared the leader. Vijay's Pride came through the centre and went in chase. Jersey Girl moved with determined strides on the very wide outside. In the midst of all this, Maple Star was completely lost. She was seen plodding at the back. A near crescendo began to build up as they entered the final furlong. B Prakash had pulled out his stick on Portia, and the pair enjoyed a slender advantage over Vijay's Pride. Jersey Girl's charge had petered out and she had clearly settled for the third spot. The scene in front altered thereafter. To the dismay of Portia's supporters, PS Chouhan and Vijay's Pride were seen gaining ground on the leader. With every stride, the gap was narrowing. About fifty metres from the winning post, Vijay's Pride collared Portia. It was smooth sailing thereafter, as Chouhan was seen nursing her comfortably across the wire. Vijay's Pride clocked a little over a minute and thirty seven seconds at the end. Jersey Girl ended a comfortable third ahead of early leader Turf Lightning, while the others were totally out-classed in this race. Even though Portia is blessed with a lot of class, she showed her limitations of stamina. It is difficult to visualize her getting anything more than a mile. Since Maple Star ran no sort of a race, it will be out of place to comment on this performance. She needs to be rested before her next appearance. Vijay's Pride re-confirmed the fact that Hyderabad based youngsters this year are of a very high quality. Many of them have been winning races this season at Bangalore.
Leading jockey Chouhan was the only professional to score more than once during the afternoon. Inayatulla trained Indian Bolt gave him an armchair ride to victory in the upper division of The VG Sarvanam Memorial Cup. Since he had ended close behind Maple Star and Plenipotent a few weeks ago, his victory looked like a foregone conclusion. He was running against much older horses in a lower class today. Chouhan settled him comfortably behind Smart Exotic till the bend before making his move. Indian Bolt darted to the front and moved away from Kripa and Mark Of Genius. The lower division was annexed by Satish Narredu's Hard To Pin Down. With strongly fancied Royal Surprise losing precious ground at the start, and second-in-demand Voice of India running poorly, Hard To Pin Down encountered little problems in this race. He went to the front and scored handsomely from Youre Stunning and Caprioska. RK Mahesh rode a competent race on this winner.
A couple of races reserved for maiden three year olds were part of the nine event card. The Elusive Pimpernel Trophy over seven furlongs attracted some well bred horses. Padmanabhan's Art Of Enchantment was known to be an expensive purchase. The filly had run a good third in her only start in winter, and had been showing out in her morning trials. Altamash Ahmed had brought Defining Moment from Mumbai. He had run a good second to Chase The Sun a few weeks ago. One look at the runners in the paddock was enough for the punters to make a choice. Art Of Enchantment looked very "light" in the parade ring, while Defining Moment stood out amongst the fifteen runners. The latter was backed strongly to climb to the top of the charts, and to the delight of his supporters, was seen romping home to an easy victory. Merchant took no chances while guiding his fortunes. Despite being let down in the final furlong, Defining Moment won by a widening eight lengths from Flying Spur and Art Of Enchantment. If his trainer decides to run him again this season, Defining Moment is sure to score in handicap company. Art Of Enchantment will need some more time to furnish properly.
Pesi Shroff's Macedonian was opposed by Lokanath's Wind Of Soul and Athletic Star over 1200 metres. Because of a persisting problem with his hoof, Macedonian was once again running "barefoot". First-timer Wind Of Soul led comfortably from the gates, and at one stage it appeared as though this well-bred filly would scamper clear of the others. However that was not to be. She showed that she clearly needed this run by slowing down near the furlong marker. This allowed the B Prakash ridden Macedonian to go clear of the others. In a fight for the minor placings,Saltoftheearth made up much ground to finish marginally ahead of Athletic Star and a tired Wind Of Soul. The last named will be a totally different proposition in her next start. Saltoftheearth showed that he would be better suited over a longer course, as he had come from way behind to take the runner-up berth.
A seven furlong handicap for horses in class II was also split in two divisions. Having performed brilliantly on the training track, Dhariwal's Casanova cornered most of the betting. A mere look at him in the paddock was enough to realize that he was looking wonderful. The horse ran on expected lines and spread-eagled his opponents. After tracking Flying Tircolour till the bend, he was asked to quicken. A push from P Trevor was all that was required. He shot into the lead, and thereafter, was oblivious of what was happening behind him. Much was expected from him as a youngster, but he had taken his time to get into rhythm. In his present form, Casanova looks capable of winning in the highest category. Of the beaten brigade, second placed Smile All The Way is another one that gave indications of an early triumph.
The lower division looked extremely competitive. Inquisition, Top Secret, Thoughts N Actions and Bryant Park had almost equal credentials, and it was only a question of their present fitness. Thoughts N Actions and Bryant Park were known to relish slightly shorter trips. With Make My Day rushing to the front, it was easy for the other riders to settle their mounts. Bryant Park tried to steal the race near the bend by opening up a nice looking lead at that stage, but John was alert to the situation. He brought Thoughts N Actions into contention and skipped clear of the others. In the end, it was Inquisition that ended second. He came with a long stretch run to beat Bryant Park into third place. Inquisition will be a different proposition in his next start. On the other hand, Neil Darashah's Top Secret has struck a terrible patch. Punters would do well to stay away from him till he shows some form.
The only other race was the opening event of the afternoon. Since a number of three year olds were running in the lowest class, one had to look at the betting boards while picking a winner. They indicated that it was going to be a close affair between Forest Spirit, Lady Mandy and Abarth, and that is eaxctly what it turned out to be. Forest Spirit showed a lot of intent by opening up a two length lead near the bend, and under some relentless goading from Sreekanth, looked poised for victory. Valdir Desouza had other ideas. He extricated Lady Mandy from a difficult passage in the back-stretch, and went in chase. The grey inched closer and closer, and finally managed to end alongside the leader. It was one result that was impossible to call without referring to the digital camera. The print confirmed that Lady Mandy had won by a "nose" from Forest Spirit. As expected, Abarth had ended a respectable third.