- india's first & foremost horse racing portal

Native Knight Wins Fight to the Finish

By Mahendra Mallya | 04 Sep 2011 | PUNE

Trainer Narendra Lagad leading Native Knight (Ladjadjstephane Up), winner of The Southern Command Gold Trophy Grade-III

Whether the Pune rains are more unpredictable or Native Knight’s performances on the turf, is a poser I leave to you to conclude. Saturday was one of the wettest days this monsoon, resulting in the cancellation of races slated for the day. However, on Sunday the rain Gods seemed to have gone on a ‘flash’ strike akin to the Bangalore syces and lo, the clouds simply refused to trickle. At the Pune racecourse, then, it was business as usual, with soaring activity and pulsating finishes dominating the day.

The RWITC had invited the Southern Command biggies for a sumptuous luncheon at the Turf Club House. The Casino Royale had their race (September Handicap) and announced a huge gaming contest at their Goa Casino, a festival scheduled between September 23rd and 26th offering a whopping Rs 5 crore in cumulative prize money. Registrations were on in full swing for the said World Gaming Festival in Goa. The Field Marshall Sam Maneekshaw Memorial Trophy saw an electrifying finish with Elizabeth winning in a ‘flared-nostril’ verdict over erstwhile stablemate Cape Ferrat. And the Radio One Trophy, which was re-scheduled from Saturday’s card, going to a debutante from Shroff’s stables, Alma Mater. What a day! Race lovers, who were agonisingly disappointed for Saturday’s loss of action, were amply compensated with great racing the very next day.

Native Knight (Placerville – Native tactics) who was the highest rated maiden until March this year when he broke the shackles in the Wadia Trophy beating Strelitzia, produced his best in the Southern Command Gold Trophy (Gr3) and was gritty at the finish, toppling the fancied Star Future in a gripping final-furlong dual.

Mighty Crusader modulated the pace in the first half of the race and extended his front-running role well until they straightened for home. Soon Native Knight, propelled by Ladjadj Stepahne, took over, dashing past the 400 m mark. Star Future, who was up in front too, gathered momentum and made his bid. Mr Greedy and Onassis were prominent too, but could not quicken as required. Onassis, the widest of them all, raised hopes briefly, but couldn’t better his bid. Mr Greedy too was right there with the battling duo but failed to match up to his known standards and finished on close with the first two. In fact, the entire field from the winner to the last horse was all within four-and-a-half lengths!

Spook and Smart Hunter cornered most of the betting and Bling (Oath – Satin Lover) was available at over 5/1 in the betting ring. Balaclava was withdrawn at the gates, as he dislodged jockey Rajendra and bolted.

Brave Vision went streaking ahead opening up a huge lead. However, he didn’t exactly scoot at an alarming pace. The others followed in a closely knitted bunch. At the turn, Brave Vision blurred out of sight as the joint favourites Spook and Smart Hunter showed eagerness to snatch the advantage. Bling did not exactly sail into the lead, jockey Sandesh has been pushing and goading her even before the turn. Bling started to respond midway up the straight and once she lit up, she easily surged past the fighting duo. Smart Hunter threatened to renew his attack and was finishing on but, by then, Bling had it going for her and was in complete command.

Elizabeth (Glory of Dancer – Queenscliff) made heavy weather of picking up the Field Marshall Sam Maneekshaw Memorial Trophy, as she was one contender on the day who looked a certain winner. Dear Henry received strong support too, but he failed to live up to the billing making a ‘hole in the bucket’, rather pocket of his supporters.

The race took an interesting turn when Cape Ferrat cruised past front-runner National Glory soon on straightening up. Cape Ferrat had barely headed the field of five when Shroff-saddled Elizabeth moved up resolutely and seemed to be gaining ground at a brisk rate. At the distance post, Elizabeth had managed to put her nose in front and appeared to be travelling better than Cape Ferrat. However, with Akshay relentlessly pushing Cape Ferrat, the outsider never threw in the towel. He put up stiff resistance and the anxiety grew as the winning post was fast approaching. Cape Ferrat did well to stick alongside Elizabeth and later even Rajendra admitted that it was a close call. He, however, was quick to add that he always had it under control. I would second Rajendra’s quip as Elizabeth never looked like giving it up although she was stretched by Cape Ferrat.

Shroff had, earlier in the day, sent out another debutante to victory in the Radio One Trophy, the race that was scheduled for Saturday starting off Sunday’s flow of events. Alma Mater (Royal Kingdom – La Pieta) impressed in her first outing and displayed enough talent and promise in the manner she conquered the Radio One Trophy. Agni Baan had taken charge in the straight but was soon pegged back by Arctic Minstrel who looked good too, but only until Alma Mater swooped upon her. Jockey Zervan settled the filly in the fifth spot and entered the homestretch from close on the inner rails. He soon switched to the outside at just the right moment and a couple of backhanders alerted Alma Mater to the task on hand. She quickly set off in chase and with a third crack, which was all she needed, bounded forward full of steam to storm past Arctic Minstrel and score convincingly. Arctic Minstrel too ran a good race and Agni Baan, who ended up earning place money, is also one to watch out for later this season.

Persian (Razeen – Colourpresentation) put in a brilliant last-ditch effort to deny Malischka what looked a certain victory. Malischka accelerated well on turning for home after Taanush committed hara-kiri advancing from last to front in the initial stages of the race and faded away at the finale.

Malischka swiftly went into the lead and charged further away and built a handy lead passing the distance post. Persian had Rajendra vigorously working on him but hardly seemed to be gaining on the leader. Sacred Relic too looked keen to contest and started making headway but both seemed lagging too far and with less than a furlong to go, Malischka looked the winner. In a sudden burst, both Persian and Sacred Relic started devouring ground at an awesome rate and Persian, despite carrying 61 on his back, threw all he had to clinch the verdict right on the post. Malischka ended an agonisingly close second while Sacred Relic finished a good third.

Celestial Call (Placerville – Star Fortune) produced his best run to date to shock a field that was bigger in number than his supporters. However, he had the last laugh, as he spanked the opposition which included the favourite Skyway with surprising ease. Distant Promise brought the field home with Capriole looking promising on the outside, Marudhara Ratan also started to stake claims on the race. Celestial Call suddenly seemed to have sported a pair of wings and flew past them all to clinch the issue some distance from the winning post. The victory took its time coming, since, Celestial Call as Twin Spice had been fancied more than once but had failed to deliver. So a much relieved trainer Altaf Hussain had reason to smile at the lead-in!

Scintillating Star (Placerville – Suave Star) was another who celebrated a first win and in a fashionable manner as well. Taking on the field from the word go, Scintillating Star grew stronger at the finish and outpaced them all to draw first blood. She led the bunch early on and set about increasing the lead in the straight. Stylish Strokes did try to match up but his effort went in vain. In fact, Insite Soul finished on well to catch the eye. As far Scintillating Star is concerned , he seems just to have started on scoring and should add at least one more this season. Insite Soul is one for the notebooks especially in a similar set either over a similar distance or even a furlong more.

Rein In Spain (Sunday Doubt – Ice Point) needed just her last run to get into shape and this time she worked her way to good form unleashing a terrific burst of speed in the final furlong. She got past Born To Race quickly on turning for home and left nothing to chance leaving a gaping distance for her rivals to chase down. That was not to be as runner-up Keringdingan laboured her way to end a good three lengths behind. Hottie lost out in the battle for the third with Crowned Princess craning her neck at the wire.

Stuntacular (Mr Mellon – Ring Of Kerry) foiled the start-to-finish bid of favourite Rain Forest in a nail-biting finish. Afsoon was a wee bit tardy off the gates, as was Good As Gold. The latter never recovered, but Afsoon was quick to make up lost ground and entering the straight was in a position to strike. However, he had too much to do and not enough ground to strike a telling blow. He, however, did enough to promise a better result next outing. Stuntacular challenged leader Rain Forest early in the straight and the duo fought out the length of the homestretch in a gripping battle. Stuntacular finally edged out Rain Forest by a short-head, with Afsoon finishing on their heels.

Macho Uno (Juniper – Universal Star) had shown signs and promise in his last outing and he did no wrong when the chance came again his way. He had stripped much fitter this time and it showed in no uncertain terms. Lying in the mid-bunch, Macho Uno stormed past the fighting trio comprising Tag Along Tommy, Victor Ivanov and Blau Himmel. He brushed aside Blush making his appearance on the outside and bounded forward to run away from the opposition with a forceful run to the wire.

For the professionals, trainer Narendra Lagad yet again pulled off a fine treble including the day’s feature, the Southern Command Gold Trophy. Pesi Shroff scored a double which included the Radio One Trophy and the Maneekshaw Trophy. Jockey C Rajendra upped his stock for the season’s championship booting home a treble.