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Cardinal Din at Pune Racecourse

By Mahendra Mallya | 10 Sep 2011 | PUNE

Mr Vijay B Shirke & P Shroff leading Cardinal (B Prakash Up), winner of The S A Poonawalla Multi-Million Gr-2

On his debut, Cardinal was appreciated. Yesterday, he was admired. The SA Poonawalla Multi-Million (Gr2) lived up to its top billing and Cardinal delivered handsomely, amongst a hugely cheering crowd that was noisy in its encouragement and appreciation. The SA Poonawalla Multi-Million is a very popular race flocked by the masses and the weekend spectators were treated to a thrilling finish, thanks to a brave fight provided by Karthik trained Haunting Fantasy.

The jump was sweetly timed by the seven aspirants and they were all keen to get into vantage position right from start. The bunch then, was tightly packed all through, with the entire field crammed within about seven to eight lengths. Suryaveer braved to dart into the lead and set a quick pace and disallowed Astapi when he tried to grab the initiative. Soneeyo stuck to the rails with Haunting Fantasy on his outside. Secret Service ran close behind on their heels, Cardinal remained unperturbed in the second last position and had only Saratoga Spring behind him. They all galloped in sync and were closely huddled at the turn.

Cardinal started to make steady progress past the 800 while jockey Rajendra improved position to have Haunting Fantasy ready to make an early move from the final curve leading into the homestretch. Suryaveer’s her choice ceased when Haunting Fantasy brushed him aside to take the lead and the DR MAM filly sped ahead nicely, working up a good momentum. Cardinal, by then, moved up notches and set about to deliver his wears He got alongside Haunting Fantasy and in going for the only challenger, Cardinal seemed to feel the pressure and shifted out and looked slightly green for a couple of strides. Haunting Fantasy galloped straight as an arrow and was going at a good clip. Prakash, then alerted Cardinal and with a couple of cracks, had Cardinal devour ground with alacrity. The pair fought it out and the adrenalin flow was getting pulsating when they came into the final furlong. Haunting Fantasy clearly implied that she was not going to make it easy for the universal favourite.

Screams of “Come on Cardinal” got louder across the Grand Stands and then, in the final approach to the winning post Cardinal unleashed his terrific burst to surge past Haunting Fantasy in a breathtaking show of raw speed. Haunting Fantasy had not faltered one bit, she was still going at a cracking pace full of running. It was Cardinal who produced an outstanding final finish that pegged back the bold bid of Haunting Fantasy. Cardinal, in only his second run, has shown tremendous potential and although the margin of victory was a narrow one, Cardinal was clearly superior, definitely so at the business end of the race. His final surge implied that he would ‘stay’ and this augurs well for him to achieve bigger glories ahead.

“The moment he settled down, I was confident we would make it,” said jockey B Prakash. He settled beautifully and he seems to understand his role well. He responded to every call made. In the straight, I grip got entangled in his mane and for a crucial moment or two into the straight, I was inconvenienced by this. However, it did not hamper in any way and Cardinal livened up nicely too. A couple of cracks was all he needed to go for the finish. He will surely get better with more exposure,” concluded the triumphant jockey.

“I am happy with his victory and he lived up to expectations. He is yet immature and that’s understandable considering this was only his second run. He has the potential and he sure is a fine colt”, said trainer Pesi Shroff.

Owner Mr Vijay Shirke was thrilled and the gleeful expression he sported was genuine. “I was a bit nervous when they were at the top of the straight. Cardinal shifted out and Haunting Fantasy looked good and strong at that time. It seemed a long wait – the final furlong or so, but when he started to inch closer, I knew he would make it. His final surge was really impressive, he is a nice colt to have in the stables,” said Mr Shirke.

Mr Adar Poonawalla, son of Dr Cyrus Poonawalla handed the trophy to the Shirkes and to the trainer and jockey. Mrs Beroze Poonawalla later picked the lucky draw for the fully-loaded Maruti Alto car that was offered as a bumper prize for those who nominated the first four placing of the SAPMM. The winner was a popular figure Mr Sheikh Nazir. The second prize of a motor cycle went to Mrs Sunderji, mother of trainer Sheraz Sunderji. Mr Zavare Poonawalla seeing a large number of enthusiasts, who too had correctly nominated the results, announced a wrist watch to each of the 30 odd aspirants as a consolation prize. This gesture was impromptu only to bring smiles across the disappointed faces. A warm-hearted gesture indeed! That’s what the Poonawalla race is all about – winning and smiling!

The Villoo C Poonawalla Gold Cup was the added attraction of the glamorous day. Eight three year old maidens were looking to break into the winners’ lot. Mystic Touch (Diffident – Caractere) owned by Dr MAM Ramaswamy and trained by Karthik defied the odds and sprung a surprise, scoring decisively over favourite Flying Kiss. Super Hero led them early and on entering the straight, Ashwa Prabir was quick to make his bid. He led until a little over a furlong to go, when Mystic Touch shot through the middle with authority. Mystic Touch, who was last but one early on, stuck to the rails and gained amply as a fee of them went wider out for clear passage. This gave a terrific opportunity and jockey Tograllu seized it with both hands. He was quick to hustle Mystic Touch to the front and had no trouble getting past Ashwa Prabir. Once in the lead, Mystic Touch powered on to win comfortably. Flying Kiss lost the plot when she went too wide coming into the straight and was further hampered as Blessed on his inside shifted out too. By the time he came, Mystic Touch had sewn up the race.

At the presentation, Mr Champak Lal Zaveri, member of the managing committee recalled Mrs Villoo Poonawalla’s fondness for horses and her popularity within the racing fraternity. This was the second running of the race in honour of late Mrs Villoo Poonawalla, wife of former Chairman of the RWITC Dr Cyrus Poonwalla.

“I thank the RWITC for instituting a race in her memory. This is the only occasion where a wife of a Chairman or committee member has been thus honoured. I feel it was due to the reason that she came as a very forthcoming human being and liked a lot more than me,” he remarked light-heartedly. “I intend to make this race a lot bigger in the future,” said Dr Poonawalla.

The crowds were conspicuous by their numbers and it was a colourful day at the Pune racecourse. The prizes and the hype were befitting the premier race club in the country. For the masses, the concept of winning a car makes the day at the racecourse a lot more exciting and the Poonawallas ensure each year that the festive mood is special on their day. Cardinal certainly is a talented prospect and what better joy, than witnessing a star in the making!