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Strelitzia Crowns Herself Undisputed Queen Mare

By Mahendra Mallya | 28 Aug 2011 | PUNE

Trainer P Shroff leading Strelitzia (S Zervan Up), winner of The Threptin Fillies & Mares Stakes Grade-III

Strelitzia (Razeen – Hablitzia) reigned supreme with a royal show in The Threptin Fillies and Mares Stakes (Group 3) and picked up the “Queen Mare” crown without encountering any hindrance. She won as she liked, no questions asked and not tested one bit. The others surrendered meekly, literally rallying behind her as if to hail her success. That Strelitzia was class apart, was blatantly evident in the sheer manner of her effortless victory, one of the easiest in a race of this significance.

Someone had to, so Oh Calcutta donned the role of the front-runner with Strelitzia ‘opting’ to run a close-behind-second until the turn. Dancing Dame pretended to pose a threat by galloping right alongside, with Lyrical Symphony on their tail, and Moon Flower failed to blossom! Strelitzia ambled into the lead soon on straightening for home and surged ahead distancing herself from the rest at a quick rate. She simply shrugged off the audacity of jockey Zervan for the solitary crack he inflicted on her and sailed to win a rich purse and all the value-added accolades that go with the graded race.

Her trainer Pesi Shroff, no less royal himself, led her in with only a matter-of-fact smile showcasing his glee. He hinted that Strelitzia might be ready for breeding duty and this fashionable victory only enhances her reputation and stock rating.

Weizhou (Senure – Priceless Moments) doesn’t cease to amaze. He has fought against all odds time and again and has been a giant killer on occasions. Sunday was no different for this Faisal Abbas charge. The race was at its hottest, as expected, in the final furlong with at least four horses looking good to win. At the helm was Pepe Junior who had a huge weight advantage going for him, hence his serious effort from the word go. National Glory used his early speed to lead the field after the initial grappling with the other forward runners but faded out soon on turning for home.

Pepe Junior was the first to make his bid and the others were jostling for vantage position. Weizhou was in the perilous position on the rails, but that bold gamble taken by the in-form jockey Dashrath Singh paid off and how! Beautiful Stranger was in between horses but making his presence felt while on the outside, El Tropico too kept his followers interested. Attila, on the other hand, failed to reproduce his last start dazzle and waned out of the fierce fight that was unfolding just a few strides in front.

Weizhou went for the kill in the final fifty and his sizzling finish was too brilliant for anyone to match. He shot away to register one of his finest victories on the turf. Pepe Junior’s lively performance was remarkable considering he was not the youngest in the bunch. Beautiful Stranger ended a satisfactory third while El Tropico could have let a few disappointed for doing no better than filling the frame.

Blackjack, the other hot favourite for the day, crashed badly. She didn’t look at her best and ever-existent post-race whispers implied that she was under some duress. The general belief was that she returned sore and might have felt her legs in the race. River Star (Warrshan-Precieux Act) made the most of it hitting the front right from start and never looking back from there.

Trainer SK Sunderji’s River Star set up a cracking pace from the outset and held a two-length advantage coming into the straight. Blackjack, who chased the leader, failed to accelerate the way she is known to and was not getting anywhere. Here is where she would have felt uncomfortable else she sure is not one to cow down so tamely. Batista raced with zest but River Star, by then, had sped away out of reach. Bullet, who was a wee bit slowly off, gained in the final moments to pip Blackjack for place money. River Star was simply too good and this form should see him produce another good effort this season.

This was the first of the three Wadhawan horses that returned victorious on the day albeit from three different stables.

Lake Michigan (Mr Mellon – Pacific Fleet), saddled by Dallas Todywalla, romped home as convincingly as his owner-mate a race earlier. Lake Michigan charged to the front past Whispering Hills coming into the homestretch and then streaked ahead as if fitted with jet engines to increase the margin of victory, piling up seven-and-a-half lengths to Fortune Hunter and Ambrosia. Lake Michigan won untroubled and looks good for an encore.

The Stipendiary stewards noted an infringement caused by Fortune Hunter and reported the matter to the Stewards, and a stewards’ enquiry was immediately called. The stewards, after viewing the incident and interviewing the jockeys, ruled to relegate Fortune Hunter to the third and promoting Ambrosia to the second spot.

Ocean Fairy (Ontario – Miss Peregrine) sizzled right from the start and was quick to wear the leader’s mantle over the scurry. This suited her to the ‘t’ as she quickened well after turning for home. Within split seconds, Akshay stretched her to a decisive lead of about four lengths and that held her in good stead at the finish. Titleist made an all-out effort to chase her down but it was too much to do in too little time. Ocean Fairy held on by just under two lengths to celebrate the 100th race of the season with a fine victory. Ocean Power ran on to beat Born To Race for the third spot.

Trainer Rehanullah Khan had reason to smile as his other more fancied runner in the 3rd race, Smooth Operator (Senure – Flyme To Themoon) scored his first victory helping Rehan’s stable apprentice A Sandesh draw first blood this season. Sandesh, who was suffering a lean patch in the season so far, showed a lot of resolve in driving Smooth Operator past favourite Greatness to clinch the issue after a brief tussle.

The bookmaker’s ring indicated that Greatness, Check Her Out and Smooth Operator held the sway and that indication was spot on. Greatness led the field homeward and soon Smooth Operator pounced on the leader. Check Her Out, who was prominent until the final furlong, was finding it difficult to stay in contention. Coming into this race without a run may have been a cause for this. However, for Smooth Operator this was a great opportunity to score and Sandesh was never going to let go of this opportunity to open his account for the season. Rehan had taken care of the fitness, form and planning of Smooth Operator’s assignment, Sandesh implemented it to perfection.

Titian (Ikhtyar – Innara) should have had a lot of gumption and stamina to match to pull of a well-deserved victory in the mile-and-a-half The Raphaela Plate over his small set of rivals. The Nina Lalvani-trained gelding chased leader Sam Bahadur all the way until the straight, but at the business end, showed quick reflexes to shoot into the lead early and then accelerating ahead to build a safe break from the rest. Thunder Strike was caught unawares by this move and panicked a bit in the straight. Titian was not the one to relent on the day and safely guided by Prakash, Titian easily held the late charge of Thunder Strike at bay.

Satyamev Jayate (Royal Kingdom – Passion Dance) scored a much-awaited victory but not without a brief tussle. Neeraj Rawal has had to face some agony losing out on some close finishes recently and he was determined to make this one count. Satyamev Jayate shot past leader Winchester soon on turning for home and just when she started to march on ahead, Arshavin started to ask questions on her outside. The duo grappled for a couple of strides, but in the final run in, Satyamev Jayate forced her way ahead to score decisively. Athos ran on from behind to earn place money.

Money Flash (Oath – Mayfair) scored a thrilling victory in the day’s opener involving Scintillo in a gripping battle that lasted the length of the straight. Scintillo held the upper hand entering the straight as he had grabbed the early lead and increased the tempo on straightening up. Money Flash, who was right up with the front bunch, started to open up throttle past the 400 and soon joined Scintillo. The duo then matched stride for stride and only a stride or two before the winning post did Money Flash surged to secure his victory. Last Tango did well to end third ahead of favourite Blush who was never in contention.

Jockey Dashrath Singh was the lone professional to score a double.