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Super Achiever Shines Bright In The Spotlight

By Mahendra Mallya | 05 Feb 2012 | MUMBAI

Capt Jamshed J Appoo, Mr ZS Poonawalla & trainer S Padmanabhan leading In The Spotlight (Martin Dwyer Up), winner of The McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby (Grade-1)

Capt Jamshed J Appoo surely would have been the happiest amongst the 30,000 odd people that thronged the Mahalaxmi Racecourse for the iconic race of the year - McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby (Gr1). His 4-year-old filly, daughter of Alnasr Alwasheek and Radiate, aptly named In The Spotlight, blew off a classy bunch of rivals and clinched the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby (Gr1) with surprising ease. With it, she became the highest grosser in terms of stake money earned, to the tune of a whopping Rs 3.8 crore.

She started off her rampage of Classic conquests with Deccan Derby at Hyderabad, and picked up the Calcutta 1000 Guineas, Oaks and the Calcutta Derby with aplomb, increasing the margin of victory with each conquest. However, she provided the proverbial icing on the cake with another brilliant performance to literally walk away with the most sought-after race in Indian racing – the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby. In doing so, In The Spotlight presented her owner Jamshed Appoo, trainer S Padmanabhan and jockey Martin Dwyer their first ever Indian Derby conquest, a trophy to cherish for life!

The manner of victory was most astounding, as all the pre-race speculation that it would be an open race or a closely contested race proved grossly incorrect. In the Spotlight won on her own terms and dismissed an elite opposition with complete authority. The victory, to sum it up in one word – Awesome!

The famous Derby roar was deafening as 30,000 vocal chords expanded in sync at high decibels. The role players jostled through to make the pace, Field Marshal hit the front briefly as Pronto Star swooped on him to grab the initiative as they turned into the backstretch. Pronto Star led by a clear margin with Field Marshal in second, In The Spotlight was next in third followed by Smashing, the rest were huddled closely, only Hills And Stars galloping a staggering five-lengths behind the second-last horse Pronto Pronto. On hindsight, Richard’s ploy to keep Hills And Stars far back for the period he did, obviously trying to save her best for the last seemed exaggerated. Even at the half way stage, Hills And Stars was tailing the field detached from the bunch. Pronto Star, meanwhile was enjoying the ‘leader’s status’ approaching the final turn. Soon Field Marshal started to cover ground and got past Pronto Star, whose game was up. In The Spotlight showed up quickly and progressed inspiringly to get to the helm soon on turning for home.

That was the end of it. In The Spotlight started to stretch away from them all and piled up an impregnable lead. Smashing moved up paces to resign to the inevitable and settle for the runner up berth. Field Marshal did well to wrest the third spot from Pronto Pronto. The winner clearly was extraordinary and simply too good on the day.

In The Spotlight thundered her powerful hooves as she glided over the turf with inspiring grace, truly a legend in motion. She was a treat to watch, dismissing the other classy horses with complete authority. Martin Dwyer had accomplished yet another Classic conquest, the biggest of them all. In the Spotlight and Martin Dwyer now share a perfect bonding and have been partners in all their recent triumphs. This is sure to continue when they will next be seen in action for the Invitation Cup in four weeks time at Bangalore.

Mr Vivek Jain, Chairman of the RWITC and Dr Vijay Mallya, Chairman of the UG Group, travelled in a vintage horse carriage to the presentation podium, specially placed opposite the Grand Stands. This was a unique entry just as last year when they made their appearance in a high-end Rolls Royce. A marching band of musicians leading them marked the grand entry.

Dr Mallya then presented the Golden ‘Horse & Jockey’ Trophy to Capt Jamshed Appoo, and a salver each to trainer S Padmanbhan, jockey Martin Dwyer while Mr ZS Poonawalla with daughter Simone collected the breeder’s salver. Mr Poonawalla then sprayed Champagne all across in jubilant celebration.

“The McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby showcases champion thoroughbreds, and today a fitting champion filly carved a niche’ for herself, winning the Derby in a great manner,” said Dr Vijay Mallya, whose own filly Smashing didn’t do too badly finishing runner up in the mega event.

“This is an amazingly successful day as despite the major rail block and the occasion of the Id-E-Milad and also a sharp increase in admission rates, the recorded attendance was 24,000 and that’s excellent.  The day was marked with superb racing, top entertainment and topped off by the grand horse-carriage presentation. All in all, an exhilarating day,” said Mr Vivek Jain.

Claiming that the winning team was overjoyed, would be an understatement. Capt Jamshed Appoo was ecstatic! It was nice to see the Capt and Mr Zavaray Poonawalla flank the undisputed champion filly and take a ‘victorious march’ (Rehanullah Khan’s colt by that name had just won the preceding race) amidst rousing applause.

“She proved that she is a top class filly and an untiring stayer with speed to match. She has won every classic that came her way at various centres and topped it off with the crowning glory – the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby. Everything went off to a plan and this victory is one of the best. Winning three races over 2400 meters in a row is an exceptional achievement and In The Spotlight is a legend in her own rights. I am confident that she can compete and win a group 3 race overseas in her current form” said Mr Poonawalla.

Even in his moment of extreme ecstasy, Capt Appoo showed his noble side as he dedicated this victory to late Nana Raghunath a family friend of trainer Padmanabhan. “Nana had looked after In The Spotlight while in Calcutta and his crucial feedback and nurturing has helped along. He is immensely missed in this moment of glory,” said Capt Appoo. On the filly he added, “In The Spotlight has thrilled me no end. She is a strong filly and we were upbeat about her chances. I was convinced when she beat the top class colt Dandified in the manner she did, that she was a force to reckon with in the Signature Indian Derby. She is indeed a special filly”.

Trainer S Padmanabhan’s wait to add the Indian Derby to his long list of Classic conquests ended in a rousing fashion. If his heart-beats were racing, it would be only due to the feeling of triumph and not suspense. There was no doubt once In The Spotlight took over in the straight, that she would win. She streaked ahead royally, leaving the others to scramble for the minor placing. She was clearly ahead, dishing out one of the easiest victories ever, in the seventy-year history of the Indian Derby.

Jockey Martin Dwyer too recorded his first Indian Derby triumph. His was the most important task of implementing the plans and he too was ‘in the spotlight.’ He was obviously basking in the glory but took out time to speak to Indiarace just after the presentation.

“She was absolutely terrific. She felt good, settled beautifully and I knew early on that she was responding with a lot of juice. Even as Pronto Star had galloped far ahead and the final turn was approaching, I was confident with the way In The Spotlight was cruising, that it was a matter of time. Sure enough, once I brought her in the open, she quickened in a trice and needed no assistance. She was long gone, away from them and out of reach. Like I said, she is truly exceptional,” said Dwyer.

We have all heard the clichéd phrase – horses for courses. In The Spotlight, with her glorious achievements across all centres, tweaks that phrase and implies that she is a ‘horse for any course!’