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Spirited Mighty Crusader Bags The Chakori Trophy

By Mahendra Mallya | 29 Jul 2011 | PUNE

Mrs Begum Sherbanoo Lagad & Traine Narendra Lagad leading Mighty Crusader (Ladjadjstephane Up), winner of The Chakori Trophy

Trainer Narendra Lagad is steadily building an aura of invincibility at the Pune racecourse with sheer performance. The reigning Pune Champion sent out three winners all at nourishing odds and against fairly good opposition. He seems to have a specific strategy in place for this season’s championship and like his horses, he too is off to a flying start towards that goal!

Mighty Crusader (Placerville – La Bonne Vie) looked in good shape in the paddock, but with the likes of Macchupicchu, Cabriolet and White Kinght perceived as a live threat being at the bottom of the scales, the odds on Mighty Crusader were attractive.

Mighty Crusader was sublime on the track. He jumped out quick and soon settled to wait behind leader Macchupicchu and White Knight within striking distance. Misschevious Trot and Highland Crown came next, while the two Shirke top-weights, Mr Greedy and Cabriolet brought up the rear, in close range of the bunch in front.

As Macchupicchu turned for home, Mighty Crusader unleashed a powerful run aided by some astute urging from jockey Ladjadj Stephane. Within a couple of strides, Mighty Crusader started to add distance and looked the winner with a furlong more to go. Cabriolet improved considerably but the nine-kilo disadvantage he was at, told on him. He finished a good second though.

Naren’s Chingari (Ontario – Miss Formidare) won in typical style, steaming in at the heat of the battle, right across the Grand Stands, playing to galleries as always. One can’t blame her this time though as she was forced to trudge behind Electra, Star Glory and Tysea at the mouth of the home turn. Shirkant Kamble, who has been in good nick and for me has been displaying good riding skills, waited for the right moment before switching course to skirt around the trio in front and then pushing home with renewed vigour. Chingari was brilliant in the final 100 meters and simply smashed the opposition to win convincingly.

Tudor Regent (Major Impact – Tudor Queen) sealed the day with fiery run in the straight to leave favourite Matilda no chance whatsoever. In Matilada’s defence, she got cramped for room at a crucial juncture and this only made her task more difficult. But the way Tudor Regent bolted away in the final furlong, I don’t reckon Matilda would have been up to thwart such an onslaught. Matilda duly finished a tame second. This should not disappoint her connections, as she was coming from a lay-off and this run would have served her well.

The Tribute Trophy turned out to be a Wadhawan Vs Wadhawan affair although the firm favourite was Mr Shirke’s Incognito. The favourite never looked up to it and ended a tame third. Star Of Venus from Katrak’s yard went all out once into the straight and built up a handy lead. Ocean Legacy (Diffident - Raziya), confidently ridden by Suraj Narredu, warmed up well and started to devour ground at a brisk pace. Incognito was a couple of lengths behind, but could not really fire up. Ocean Legacy sailed past owner-mate Star Of Venus and won well. Star Of Venus too ran a good race and bears watching. Incognito ought to strip fitter and would have certainly gained from this outing.

Dovers Hill (Glory of Dancer – Fast Trick) carried his Mumbai form where he made a winning debut and justified the wide support he received. He was in the thick of action right from the start and held a marginal advantage all through. He stepped up momentum soon on entering the straight and kicked on gamely to score on his first outing in Pune as well. Ocean Emperor tried hard to catch up but could only reduce the margin to an extent. However, he certainly was gaining on Dovers Hill in the closing stages.

Starseeker garnered good support in the betting ring at race time, but he lost the early advantage as he was slow off the blocks. Titian too was guilty of a tardy jump but he rallied late to finish one off the frame. Sterling Silver ran well in patches and should improve with this run.

Salt (Diffident – Conqueress) perhaps was the pick of the day as she looked sharp and dished out a clinical victory without fuss or alarm. The firm first favourite, ridden by Faisal Abbas’ stable jockey S Sunil, quickened well in the straight and left the rest to squabble for the minor placing. Salt had Snow Blaze and Mountain Wind on her tail at the bend, but soon on turning for home, she left them behind and tore the wind to stretch away. Salt was clearly superior and notched up a fashionable victory for the Rashids. Pablo Neruda lost a little ground at the start but recovered steadily to end in the frame.

Stardom Bound caused a big jolt to the followers of favourites with a lacklustre performance which, mildly put, was disappointing. Attempting the nine-furlong The Alouette Plate start to finish, Stardom Bound lost the sheen much earlier than expected and even let Perfect Strength who was languishing in a hopeless position way down the field to get her on the post for even the second spot.

Deep Purple (Mr Mellon – Scenic), on the other hand, put in a zestful performance and collared Stardom Bound soon after the final turn. Once in the lead, Deep Purple, trained by Subhag Singh, raced away to a comfortable victory with a lot left in the saddle. Perfect Strength lent the dramatic angle to the race as he worked up terrific momentum to further put salt in Stardom Bound’s wounds to deny her a face-saving second spot. What makes Perfect Strength’s performance even more noteworthy was the fact that he was distant last even as the field of four straightened for home. This was a terrific recovery. Trainer Subhag Singh could not have asked for a better start as his wards grabbed the top two places in the day’s opener.

For the professionals, trainer Narendra Lagad was the undisputed ‘Pro of the day’ with three successful returns. His ally Ladjadj Stepahne was the only jockey to score a double.