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Brilliant Hills And Stars Dazzles with a Blinder

By Mahendra Mallya | 09 Oct 2011 | PUNE

Mr. Prem Tharani & Trainer Vinayak leading Hills And Stars (Suraj Narredu Up), winner of The Nanoli Stud Pune Derby Grade-I

The Nanoli Stud Pune Derby (Gr 1) was run at its best. Literally! Hills And Stars (Razeen – Altitude) carved her own timing creating a new record, stopping the clock at 2:03:78, the best ever on the monsoon track, bettering Cabriolet’s 2:04:06. For the Wadhawan camp, it was their second consecutive Pune Derby victory, Ocean And Beyond clinching the honours last year for them.

Contrary to the pre-race expectations of a nerve-wrecking finish, Hills And Stars rocketed away in the home stretch and found the ‘fifth gear’ to launch into overdrive and won without encountering any challenge from any of the formidable quartet that had promised a close finish. Picasso was the first casualty with a disastrous start. He planted and lost a distance as the rest were quick to take the jump. There ended Picasso’s hopes. Pronto Star did not surprise when he took the lead and set a true pace for the race.

Invictus followed on his tail and the rest were closely huddled but for Picasso who was making efforts to bridge the long deficit from the tardy start. The packed field were jostling one another almost all the way until the turn, rubbing shoulders in the true sense of the expression. Suraj Narredu in a brave but pre-determined move made a dash for it as they rounded the curve. That was the telling blow!

Lake Michigan had barely focussed on the winning post when Hills And Stars whizzed past him like a tornado on a rampage. Suddenly the opposition looked mediocre as Hills And Stars flashed past the Grand Stands. Only Cardinal came out with a decent effort to take the runner-up position for a relatively good effort. Cardinal stalked Hills And Stars for most of the journey, but Hills And Stars moved far too quickly approaching the turn and then with an inspiring gallop stole a march coming into the straight, which weighed heavily against Cardinal in the final standing.

Suraj Narredu was spot-on with his tactical moves. He sure surprised many by the sudden surge ahead and that aggression shown by him paid rich dividends. “I was convinced she would stay the trip and I believed that the best ploy was to make them chase me down. When I got the chance to switch out approaching the bend, I did not hesitate a moment and impulsively skirted around the horses in front. Hills And Stars responded instantly and got into the speeding mode. I got the cue that she was ready to unleash her final burst and played along with her. She blazed away and once I had amassed a sizable lead, I knew it was going to be easy,” said jockey Suraj Narredu.

Mr Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan was conspicuous by his absence and his long time friend and joint partner along with Mr Waryam Singh, Mr Prem Tharani was overwhelmed to lead-in the triumphant princess. “We had strategized her program and had decided on racing her lightly and keep her fresh for such big races. She is a quality filly and we had spotted her potential and targeted specific races for her. We have accomplished one major task and it is a great pleasure when such long-term goals are achieved as per expectations. Vinayak has done a great job and Suraj Narredu implemented the plans in a superb fashion. I am satisfied to the brim,” said Mr Tharani.

Hills And Stars provided trainer Vinayak his first Pune Derby trophy representing the Wadhawans. However, Vinayak has trained three previous Derby winners with Tobler, Artois and Aquilo for the Dhunjibhoys.

The Oktoberfest complemented the Derby day and the members’ lawns were flooded with revellers having a great time. The German culture has taken on well with the Punites and it was an ideal family outing for race lovers. One lucky punter drove away with a Volkswagon car for correctly nominating the winners Swift Memories and Hills And Starts in a contest of skill.

While Hills And Stars was crowned the princess, Cardinal walked away with honours too and the classics contests in the forthcoming Mumbai season has just opened up a few more permutations of speed, Stamina, class and strategies among a new breed of champions and potential champions!