Calcutta racecourse was humming with excitement on the eve of Holi. There was a festive atmosphere in the air. As was expected, the seven event card proved to be a tricky affair with quite a few close finishes and upsets. The mile race for The Astounding Cup saw the favourite Cambiasso finish a tame fifth. Jockey Ruzaan lodged an objection against second placed Silver Fox for interference but the same was promptly overruled. The top three spots were occupied by the Vijay Singh-trained trio of Arktouros, Silver Fox and Record Breaker, in that order. As was speculated in this column, Christopher Alford used his favourite horse Arktouros as his ‘comeback ride’ after suffering a nasty fall from Alayir few weeks back.
Though he has got a huge lead in the jockey’s championship table, Christopher has never been known to rest on his laurels. He shot Arktouros (available at 7/2) to the front as the gates opened and varied the pace to a nicety without being too fast. Cambiasso failed to improve as Record Breaker and Caravaggio followed. The six-year-old which gave him his 1000th winner last monsoon, runs well under Alford and found something extra at the distance post when his stablemates were making their move. The Grand Annual Handicap, also run over the metric mile, was an absolute humdinger. The 4/1 chestnut Sokudo from Bharath Singh’s yard was on a start-to-finish mission and going well. The favourite Misty Isles was always in mid-division.
Optimum Pride (Tirol-Stratospheric) was running a forward race and challenged the front-runner in the straight under the urgings of M Ali Khan. Dashrath on Sokudo panicked and failed to keep his mount on course. Even if he had won, he would have probably lost the race in the Stewards Room. As it was, Optimum Pride prevailed by a short-neck. The rest of the field were outclassed. Dashrath has been suspended for reckless ridding from March 28 – April 15, 2011. Daniel David, who trains Optimum Pride, led in two more winners – Must Be Magic and Desert Image. The pair gave apprentice Arman Khan a double. Must Be Magic’s closest contender (Alize) appears to buckle whenever she is challenged over these sharp trips. Either she needs more ground or she needs to be demoted. Bharath Singh-trained Holyhead was fancied quite strongly by his connections to land the spoils in the Char Bahar Handicap.
However, Desert Image (with a mandatory 5kg penalty for winning on Wednesday) was given a great ride by Arman. Holyhead needed the experience and will be better for it. He drifted out in the straight. There were several professionals during the afternoon who completed a brace. Apprentice Mohit Singh was in that elite category as he picked up both divisions of the Siddh Raj Handicap. The upper division saw him land a good gamble astride Bharath Singh-trained Sea Beauty. Aided by a mock race with stablemate Cairndhu, Sea Beauty quite easily accounted for the favourite Aeropostale. In the lower division, Mohit atop Flaming Love had to pull out all stops to get the better of Secret Idea and Mystic Force. The Richard Alford-trained mare thus notched up her third win of the season, thanks to some shrewd placement. The withdrawal of Regal Classic left the Bahrain Trophy wide open. Awsome Indian and Avesco were the joint favourites. The former made it a start-to-finish affair in Dashrath Singh’s hands while Avesco and Solid Success ran like duds. Top-weight Impressive Wish finished a good second.