Mr. M Lakshminarayana & trainer Sharat Kumar Leading Magnitude Star (J H Christopher Up), Winner Of The Kolkata Cup
A well filled card of nine events was framed for the opening day of the "Derby Weekend" at Bangalore on Saturday. Overnight rains in the city had rendered the track a bit soft, and timings clocked during the afternoon were generally slower than normal. The Kolkata Cup , a nine furlong handicap for horses in the highest class, had attracted fifteen runners. With most of the seasoned performers being saddled with heavy imposts, the race was expected to be a duel between Pesi Shroff's Volterra and the Padmanabhan trained Hills And Stars. After winning a class III handicap, Volterra had been promoted to the highest category. Starting as a firm favourite on re-appearance, she had finished third to Speed Six and Maddox. The connections felt that the seven furlong trip had proved to be a bit short for her liking, and therefore, chose to run her over a longer course today. The Pune Derby was the last race that Hills And Stars had won in her career. A close fourth in the Indian 1000 Guineas was her next best performance. She had been targeted at some other "graded" events thereafter, wherein, she was forced to run at almost level weights against horses rated much higher than her. This was the first time that Hills And Stars was running at her mark of 88. The distance was ideally suited to her style of running, and the connections were hopeful of a much improved performance from her. The two four year old fillies were backed to the exclusion of their rivals. However, the final result was quite a "shocker". Sharat Kumar's Magnitude Star went to the front, and managed to keep the fancied pair at bay. This enabled the champion trainer of the Bangalore Winter Season to lead-in his first victor this summer. His search for a winner ended after saddling more than a hundred runners in the last couple of months.
Magnitude Star had won a couple of races over slightly shorter trips in the lower classes, and this was the first time that he was travelling over the present distance. It was perhaps for this very reason that when he went to the front in the back-stretch, nobody challenged him . He set his own comfortable pace and showed the way to Practicallyperfect, Crown Empress, Forever Glory and Volterra. Hills And Stars raced in mid-divison as the runners took the rising ground and turned for home. Magnitude Star felt the pressure at the bend and rolled off the rails. However, jockey Christopher was alert to his job on hand, and was quick to correct the drift. Zervan brought Volterra with a nice looking run through the middle and joined the issue. Hills And Stars made a charge on the wide outside and moved towards the leaders. The first one beat at that stage was the favourite Violterra. She flopped under pressure and slowed down perceptibly. Magnitude Star hung on precariously to his lead and managed to last out till the finish. Hills And Stars could do no better than finish a fair second ahead of a tired Volterra.
The SN Harish Memorial Trophy, a seven furlong event reserved for maiden three year olds, attracted a strong line up of thirteen runners.Padmanabhan's Unforgettable selected himself as a strong contender for the first prize. Despite looking gross more than six weeks ago, this well bred horse had left a fine impression while ending third on debut. Those who had seen him working subsequently, were confident that he would win his next start. However, he had to contend with well performed horses like Amitayus, Saltoftheearth and Shivalik Power. Unforgettable threw tantrums and delayed the start. This led to a couple of horses playing up at the gates and getting withdrawn. Both Amitayus and Firelight were declared non-starters.John made full use of his innermost draw and sent Unforgettable into an early lead . The free striding horse enjoyed his solitude and tore away from the pack.In what looked like a virtual procession, it was left to Shivalik Power to put up a feeble challenge, but that was all he could achieve. A tired Saltoftheearth managed to hold onto his third spot ahead of a late rushing Caeser's Star. The final verdict of four lengths and twelve lengths coupled with the extremely fast timing clocked by the winner, completed the full story. Caeser's Star can be noted for an early victory on his return to Pune.
Another strong and powerful performance by John in the saddle enabled Samar Singh's Apollo King to lift The Delhi Cup. Carrying the top weight over a mile, this heavily bandaged horse was drawn the widest amongst a group of fifteen runners. Since he was known to be sluggish in the early stages of a race,it was accepted that his task was pretty tough today. With The Senator, Mellonsdelight , Bounty Hunter and Strive And Serve doing the early running, a tightly packed contingent entered the straight. Apollo King was last but one, and John was still trying to find some galloping room for him. The scene in front was soon restricted to a pair of fancied horses. Suraj astride Stride and Serve held a slender advantage over the B Prakash ridden Brownie, as the two of them galloped towards the finishing line. With less than a furlong to travel, Apollo King appeared on the scene. Devouring ground on the wide outside, he came with giant strides to floor the leaders. This sensational finish recieved a standing ovation from those present at the course.
Four year old Lad Star finally managed to enter the winner's enclosure, after she scampered home to a marginal victory ahead of Blue Star and No Doubt. Lad Star's last couple of runs against younger and more talented horses had shown that she would be too-good-to-miss against runners in her own age group. She finally got a chance on Saturday after Amit Caddy chose to act accordingly.. Encountering traffic problems in a closely packed field, Valdir DeSouza had to nurse her carefully till they reached the bend. After the field got spread-out at that stage, he found some galloping room for the filly. Lad Star came through comfortably and stormed ahead of the early leaders Caprioska, Thrillseeker and Mountain Glory. At about the same juncture, there was another runner that caught the eye. Blue Star was seen moving fast on the wide outside, and was catching up with the favourite. To the relief of those who had backed Lad Star, the filly managed to hold onto her slender advantage. No Doubt ran poorly and ended a tame third.
Trainer Pradeep Annaiah's Yourewindsofchange showed great resolve while scoring his third straight victory on the local track. He defied the handicapper by making light of a stiff penalty that he had recieved for an earlier triumph. In his present condition, it is easy to predict that he will win again for the asking. Running in the lower division of The RM Puttanna Memorial Trophy, a seven furlong handicap for horses in class III, Yourewindsofchange was opposed by fourteen runners. The style of his previous victory and an advantageous draw , coupled with the fact that he was being partnered by leading professional PS Chouhan today, led to some strong action in the betting rings. After recieving one-sided support, Yourewindsofchange leapt out of the starting gates.He raced prominently till the bend and showed the way to Grand Success, I Specialist and One Time Magic. It was quite obvious that he was doing all this on tight reins. Chouhan released the brakes near the bend and asked him to quicken. Yourewindsofchange increased the tempo and cantered away from a late finishing Decorated and Grand Success.
Chouhan's other winner came in the day's opener. Dominic's Clever Trick had emerged from the maiden ranks with a narrow victory exactly a fortnight ago. Wanting to exploit her good form, the trainer ran her in the lower division of a class IV sprint. Since she was clashing with Satish Narredu's Athletic Star, not many gave her a chance to put it accross this good looking horse. On the basis of his close finish behind Macedonian and Saltoftheearth in a maidens event, Athletic Star was strongly fancied today. In addition to that, he was also recieving weight from Clever Trick, and this resulted in Athletic Start starting as the shortest priced runner this season. Chouhan took a good jump with Clever Trick and settled her comfortably behind bottom weighted Assurance. On the other hand, Suraj and Athletic Star were caught wide and the pair stayed there till they reached the bend. Clever Trick moved ahead at this stage and kicked away from the pack. The favourite responded to Suraj's call and went in chase, but that was all he could manage. Clever Trick's smooth acceleration was a bit too much for Athletic Star's capabilities. He started to plod at the end and surrendered tamely. After doing the early work, Assurance finished a faraway third.
For the second race day in succession, a three year old bred at The Nakul Stud Farm won a sprint handicap in open company. This time it was Raphire who showed a clean pair of heels to his rivals. In a race which was generally expected to be confined to Forest Spirit, Nocturnal Hunter and Active Grey, this was quite a surprise. Vivek brought Raphire from an extreme draw and overtook early leader Active Grey within the first couple of furlongs of this race. In the hands of Rajendra, Forest Spirit showed intent by chasing the leader. Nocturnal Hunter and Active Grey found the pace a bit hot to handle, and were seen dropping out of contention. Raphire continued his dominance till the very end. Vivek eased him in the closing stages, and this permitted Active Grey to end a fair second ahead of Forest Spirit and the others.
A scurry for maiden three year olds proved to be a one horse affair. Malesh Narredu's Mzima proved to be too strong for her nine rivals. The winner shared favouritism with Haute Ecole in the early trade, but once the horses appeared in the paddock, the scene changed completely. Mzima looked much better than Haute Ecole and inspired a lot of confidence amongst the betting fraternity. She recieved strong support to start as an odds-on choice of the punters. Suraj rushed her into an early lead and kept increasing it in the straight. Haute Ecole was under pressure all the way.This well bred filly stayed in touch till the bend before calling it a day. This permitted Igah Igah Igah to sail into the second spot. It may take Haute Ecole some more time to enter the winners enclosure.After returning to Pune, Mzima is sure to move up the ladder.