Trainer Karthik Ganapathy leading Turf Lightning (B Sreekanth Up), winner of The Keeneland Juvenile Fillies' Million
Setting up the tone for the Nanoli Derby was the Noshir & Dolly Dhunjibhoy Sprint Million and Star Future was the obvious first favourite for the manner in which he had destroyed his top class rivals in the Maharaj Akkasaheb Trophy just the previous week.
Star Future along with Dancing Glances and Mountain Regiment were in the front with Nefyn close behind on the rails. A length away was Blue Sky with Caribbean Queen at the tail end. Star Future had barely led the field homewards when Nefyn tore through the middle and bounded forward with a steaming run. Once he surged to the lead, it was all over. None from behind could match Nefyn’s brilliance and the Bezan Chenoy trainee won with a good measure of comfort showing old form.
Nefyn looked at his brilliant best and would be a force to reckon with in the important sprint races in Mumbai. The Manjri bred gelding is owned by Mr Dilip Thomas along with Mr& Mrs Shapoor Mistry.
Stringsofmyheart (Antonius Pius – La Moraleja) ran the best race of her life and rewrote the course record timing in a cracker of a race. She shot into the lead soon at start and kept a good clip going. Ishpingo, Viva La Diva, Emerging Star and Rule Forever were up close with the leader. The rest were not too far behind either.
On turning for home, Stringsofmyheart was on song. She quickened instantly and shut the opposition out in no time. She looked the winner approaching the distance post and the rest never caught up with her. Ishpingo ran to end second just ahead of the fast finishing Borderline.
The Keeneland Juvenile Fillies’ Million run over six-furlongs had eight fillies in the fray and Portia earned the pre-race top billing to return victorious. She towered over the rest in terms of past performance and top race experience and coming from the leading stable all seemed set for her to make a winning start in Pune. The break was even and all seemed to be going well. Turf Lightning hit the front, with Sharaarat, Twilight, and Portia huddled close together until the turn.
Once into the straight, Turf Lightning (Kodiac – Cahermee Queen) unleashed a powerful run and in split seconds sealed the race running away from the entire field. She opened a huge lead and registered one of the most impressive victories of her career. Bourbon Street covered good ground to take the second spot while Portia ended a tame third. Turf Lightning is owned by Dr MAM Ramaswamy, trained by Karthik and was ridden by Sreekanth and bred at the Hazara Stud.
Hemisphere (Mull of Kintyre – Stratospheric) owned by Mr Berjis Minoo Desai in partnership with Ms Vandana Berjis Desai and Mr Rakesh Jhunjhunwalla was confidently ridden by I Pasha to a runaway victory. He not only shocked the opposition but the followers of form as well with the manner of victory.
Sheer Romance took over from New World soon on start and led them until the turn. New World, fell back to a close fifth position as Eveready, Nush and Barringo came up well to be in touch with the leader. Hemisphere was a leisurely sixth and improved gradually as they turned for home. New World made the first move to snatch the lead. He had barely done so when Hemisphere got a good opening which he surged through. Nush was a prominent third, but fared poorly when it mattered most and let down the large following he had garnered owing to his last start second. He ran below par and finished a poor fourth.
Hemisphere though was a complete contrast. He improved upon his last run considerably and galloped on to stretch away from the rest to pile up a huge 5 ¼ length victory. New World and Barringo both finished on relegating Nush to fourth.
Fire Engine (European – Sunlit Moon) owned by Mr Shiven Surendranath in partnership with Ms Ritika Brar, breeder of Fire Engine at the Arabesque Stud Farm she owns, pulverized the opposition in the mile and half Volkswagen Trophy. Fire Engine with just two runs behind him making him a rookie against his seasoned opponents, plundered his rivals with a terrific stretch run, literally come from the last position to stretch out beautifully to post a widening five-length victory. Tara unfortunately clipped and fell soon on entering the homestretch.
Royal Honor was quick to hit the front and went at a decent pace. Star Mountain, Jen’s glory Tara followed in close behind. Fire Engine was a couple of lengths away lying last until the turn. Once into the straight, Word of Honour surged ahead but before he could pick up momentum, Fire Engine came with a terrific burst with P kamlesh on board and stormed ahead to post an imposing maiden victory in a fantastic fashion. He had placed second on debut and subsequently ended fourth over the mile. He was backed confidently and was the prime favourite. He obliged his huge followers without causing any anxiety and romped home to score his maiden career victory.
“This is my first victory on the Pune turf and I am delighted at this success,” said the genuinely gleeful breeder and part owner Ritika Brar over the phone from Chandigarh. “Fire Engine had his share of problems and I must thank trainer Cooji Katrak and Wahid for setting him right in so little time. Shiven is an old friend and it is a moment of joy to share the victory along with him. The Nanoli Pune Derby was a sensational race and I was awestruck at the finish and Fire Engine followed that up with a personal glory for me and my farm, so the Derby day is going to be a landmark of sorts for me personally,” added Ms Ritika Brar.
Nicanora (Mr Mellon – Local Secret) owned by Haresh and Manav Mehta, shed his maiden status in the most fashionable manner. He raced behind the more fancied bunch, jockey Vikram Jodha allowing his mount to get into a rhythm and struck early in the straight to confound his rivals as he sped away to streak ahead to win unchallenged. Hurricane Wind was sent on a start to finish mission and he did well until Nicanora came on to the scene. Nicanora improved positions at the turn and with a sudden impressive surge got past them all to post a near four length victory. Menage A Trois could not raise the kind of gallop required to match that of Nicanora in the mood the latter was in and paled in comparison to finish fourth. Hurricane Wind ended second ahead of Milano Green.
Trainer Vinayak was one of the most popular trainers in the circuit and known for his practical pranks and jovial nature. Sadly, a dreaded cancerous tumor took the jolly good bloke away prematurely. The Vinayak Trophy thus had an emotional bearing on the Derby day, after all, he had served Mr KN Dhunjibhoy, the sponsor of the Nanoli Pune Derby, for decades as his private trainer with a degree of distinction.
Vinayak’s wife, Ms Aiysha Geakwad, along with their son Aditya and Vinayak’s father Janardhan were escorted to the podium by Mr Vivek Jain and Mr Zaveri. Trainer Janardhan was hesitant to accompany them earlier as he was too emotional and was obviously reliving those tough moments of his son’s last days. After all, it was this day last year that Vinayak was seen celebrating and jubilant after leading-in yet another Nanoli Pune Derby winner - Hills And Stars. Vinayak’s son, who has a striking resemblance to his father, had come dressed in his dad’s clothing. He had on Vinayak’s suit, shirt, shoes and even his sun glasses, attempting in his own little gesture, to bring and feel Vinayak’s presence at the racecourse. Those gone will never return, but a slightly comforting fact emerged out of this gesture – Vinayak lives on… in his son Aditya… for yet another generation.
Relic Hunter (Bertolini – Ash Moon) owned by Mr Haresh and Manav Mehta and trained by CD Katrak finally came good to win the Pune Police Commissioner’s Trophy beating a big field of 16. Racing in the mid-bunch but in close proximity of the front-runners, Relic Hunter took every chance he got to come through the gaps and was in box seat as the heads turned for home. Leaving nothing to chance, jockey P Kamlesh put Relic Hunter into top gear and whizzed away to establish a sizable lead. That proved a master move as Invictus, the fastest finishing of the lot fell just a little short of pegging back Relic Hunter. He bridged a lot of ground in the final 100 but with Relic Hunter’s cushion of that handy lead, it was never going to be possible for Invictus to pull of anything sensational.
Hill Ranger (Mr Mellon – So Shocking) property of the Wadhawan camp stole the show in the day’s very first race. Mon Ami was the hot favourite and the first casualty setting the trend of favourites biting the dust during the day. Save Fire Engine in the Volkswagen India Trophy towards the fag end of the day, no other favourite obliged through the ten-race card!
Song of Africa led the big field having Hill Ranger alongside and as they entered the homestretch, Hill Ranger took off propelled by a forceful Suraj Narredu. The way Hill Ranger responded, there was no hope for any of the others and Hill Ranger scaled to the highest point in his career picking up his first career win, claiming the Lufthansa-Senator Trophy Div II in style. Favourite Mon Ami was never prominent and made matters worse as he took the turn wide. He galloped on though, to find a place in the frame just alongside Ashwa Apollo and Xenia who grabbed the minor placing.
The upper division of the same race was taken by Fire Queen (Quest Star – Oberon’s Mistral) owned by Mr CF Palia, Kr Digvijay Shekhawat, Mr Ashok Jaiswal and Mr Mukund Kakani. Jockey Kavraj Singh, who came in as a last moment replacement to CS Jodha who had sustained a fall a race earlier, did a brilliant job making the right moves at the right junctures to wriggle out of a thickly populated bunch of horses. Astromia had shot into the lead and looked headed for a victory. She had built a useful lead and was accelerating well too. Fairy Queen came through narrow openings on the rails and was free of the others coming into the final furlong. On the other side of the track, Lightening Thunder as gathering momentum and fast gaining ground. In the final clash, Fairy Queen was resolute and warded off Lightening Thunder and nosed the wire to claim a well-earned victory.
For the professionals, trainers Bezan Chenoy and CD Katrak saddled a double each while Dashrath Singh once again stole the limelight with a fine treble. Jockey P Kamlesh too rode two winners on the day.