Arktouros Clinches It For C Alford
It was finally ‘D-Day’, not on the shores of Normandy but at the Calcutta racecourse where Christopher Alford guided top-weights Gloriosa and Arktouros to flawless triumphs and in the process reached the magic mark of 1,000 winners. A heavy shower after the first race delayed the proceedings but the soft turf could not prevent the iconic local champ from keeping his date with destiny.
Arktouros (which was listed as the day’s best wager on this website) lifted the Stewards Cup after a brief struggle with Rimpuche in the straight. “It was just like batting in the nineties,” said an elated Christopher while relaxing at his Hastings home on Saturday evening. “It’s really a big weight off my shoulder. The fact that I did it on one of my favourite horses (Arktouros) makes it even sweeter. I really can’t express my happiness.”
“On the way to the starting stalls, Imran (A Imran Khan on Ascriptive) and Mahesh (atop Bid For Gold) were travelling together with me. I knew they were wishing well for me by their smiles but I also knew that they were not going to give an inch for my benefit. That’s professional racing and I am happy I made it on merit alone.” When asked whether it was a gameplan to lie in the rear with Arktouros, Christopher replied: “Not at all. I was supposed to lie behind the speedy filly Bid For Gold. But she was too quick, so I was in the rear till the 600. Arktouros is a great fighter and as the going was a trifle soft, I was able to catch up and pass the pace-setter but had to pull out all stops to peg back Rimpuche.”
“When I came to Kolkata from Bangalore as an apprentice, my career took off in the right direction, thanks to the guidance from Harish Ramchandhani who has had the greatest influence on my professional career. I am really grateful to him.
“My wife has not much interest in racing. When I come home, she asks if I got any winners. If the answer is in the affirmative, she is very happy. That’s about it,” says Christopher with a smile. And it was indeed smiles all round as the popular rider continues to bat on 1,000 (not out).
One race earlier, in the Unknown Warrior Cup, Christopher had piloted Gloriosa to an impressive victory. The heavily penalized three-year-old filly Debonaire Girl ran on a good second. Even if the latter had won, it would not have justified a 9.5 kg penalty on a three-year-old which has won just one race in her career. Youngsters must be encouraged to win, not smothered.
In the afternoon’s opening event, much hype was unnecessarily generated around a first-outing three-year-old named Rocket Ball who closed as the even-money favourite. In my 35 years of racing experience, I can count on my fingers the number of times a first outing youngster has won a 1,400 metres race at any of the major racing centres (Chennai excluded). Men like Rashid Byramji and Uttam Singh had the ability to perform this feat but even their instances are rare.
The race was fought out by rank outsider Regal Classic and the well-performed Credit Ease (a full brother to Safari). A Imran Khan, who won astride the former by using the whalebone freely, completed a double on Island Rhythm in the Defence Forces Cup. Countess closed as the favourite and was on a start to finish mission. However, once Imran extricated the chestnut colt from the rails and placed him on the outside, he just flew past the Bharath Singh filly.
The two most facile winners of the afternoon were the Arti Doctor-trained pair of Baskerville and Kestrel. It completed a brace for apprentice Shezad Khan who is turning out to be an useful rider.