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In The Spotlight Continues To Dazzle

By Pearcey | 04 Mar 2012 | BANGALORE

Capt Jamshed J Appoo, Dr Cyrus Poonawalla & trainer S Padmanabhan leading In The Spotlight (Martin Dwyer Up), winner of The AKK Entertainment Golden Jubilee Indian Turf Invitation Cup (Grade I)

A superb performance from Padmanabhan's hugely talented filly In The Spotlight landed her The AKK Entertainment Golden Jubilee Indian Turf Invitation Cup (Grade I) on Sunday at Bangalore. By merely reproducing her known form, the chestnut confirmed once again that she is the best four years old in training in the country. After winning this race, In The Spotlight set a new standard. She became the first filly in Indian racing to win three Derby's and The Invitation Cup. The credit for the vast improvement that she has shown over the last six months must go to trainer Padmanabhan. He has transformed her into a galloping machine, and for those amongst us who had seen her during Bangalore Summer, it is difficult to recognize her. In The Spotlight is presently looking absolutely "perfect".

In The Spotlight started her career on a mediocre note. After losing a couple of times to Southern Bay at Mysore, she was taken to Hyderabad for The Monsoon Derby. Even though she won by a widening margin, it was felt that she had beaten poor opposition. A couple of Classic successes in Kolkata generated much excitement. Local turfites were waiting for her to clash with Dandified in The Eveready Derby. What happened that day is now part of history. Even then, she wasn't given her due recognition. The pundits remarked that "she had beaten a horse who clearly doesn't stay!!" The bookmakers at Mahalakshmi were equally cynical. They offered 5/1 against her in The Indian Derby. Those who had reposed faith in her, were benefited by their decision. By running the Indian Derby contenders off their feet, In The Spotlight confirmed that she was truly special. There was sudden respect for the filly. No bookmaker dared to offer more than half money on her in The Indian Turf Invitation Cup 2012 on Sunday.

The nine runner's jumped out smartly and made steady progress from the mile and a half marker. Southern Bay found herself in front and she led at a steady pace from In The Spotlight, Smashing and Pronto Pronto. With the others strung out in single file, there wasn't much change in the order, as they swung towards the mile marker. Finding the pace a bit slow for her liking, Martin Dwyer eased In The Spotlight into a comfortable lead near the half way stage and dictated pace thereafter. While she was travelling well within herself, the others were off their bridles. Without making much of a fuss, Dwyer reminded In The Spotlight of her task in the straight and kept pushing her till the winning post. She crossed the line ahead of Smashing, Southern Bay and Toroloco. Pronto Pronto, who ended fifth, collapsed on the race track after passing the winning post. He apparently suffered a cardiac arrest and had to be sadly put to sleep.

The connections of In The Spotlight were obviously delighted with the result. She had won everything for the asking.  She had set a new record for the amount of stake money that she had won in the last six months. A modest Padmanabhan remarked that "In The Spotlight is definitely special. Martin Dwyer has struck a fine partnership with her, and they understand each other perfectly. I never give instructions to him because he knows what to do. The filly is the best that I have trained thus far in my career, but I hope I am lucky enough to train even better horses in the future." Padmanabhan is one Indian trainer who understands International Racing fairly well. It may not surprise many if he decides to take In The Spotlight across Indian shores.

Pesi Shroff's Cardinal slammed a dozen opponents while waltzing away with The Maj. PK Mehra Memorial Super Mile Cup (Grade I). Traditionally, this race features the best horses in the country. Bangalore 2000 Guineas winner Field Marshal and Indian 1000 Guineas winner Alma Mater were backed ahead of Cardinal and Sprint Star. Each one of them had the ability to topple the other, and race goers were expecting a nail-biting finish in this race. However, it was a totally transformed Cardinal who performed way above his known form and annexed this coveted trophy. With Dear Henry and Field Marshal setting a good pace, Prakash was able to relax Cardinal, as the runners raced through the back-stretch and made their way towards the final bend. The others headed by Alma Mater were under pressure to keep pace with the leaders. All Prakash needed to do thereafter was to relax his grip on Cardinal. Without making much of an effort, Cardinal ranged alongside Field Marshal. With less than two furlongs to travel, Cardinal assumed command of the situation. His lengthening strides enabled him to canter away from stablemate Alma Mater and Sprint Star. This was definitely one of the easiest victories achieved in the "Super Mile" in recent years. After yesterday's victory with Attila in The Sprinter's Cup, Pesi Shroff and Prakash cornered glory for the second day in succession.

The Suresh Mahindra Multi-Million Trophy (Grade III), a seven furlong terms race for Indian horses four years old and over, attracted a large field of fifteen acceptors. On the basis of his late rushing close fourth in The Sprinter's Cup on Saturday, D Pillai's Ancient Wonder received all round support to start as a favourite ahead of Hill Dioro, St Catz and Sovetskaya. Ancient Wonder was known to relish the present trip and the quality of the field today was definitely inferior to the one that he faced yesterday. However, he ran poorly to finish a tame fourth. The race was won by Z Darashah's Bold Police. The horse had failed to win a Class I handicap at Mysore a few weeks ago, and there weren't many who gave him a chance in this event. Bold Police tracked D'artagnan till the bend, and made his move only after straightening for home. With jockey Henrique waving his whip, Bold Police showed remarkable acceleration to dart ahead of the others. Sovetskaya moved strongly on the wide outside, but she was forced to settle for the second prize. Bold Police caused the biggest upset of the week-end and paid an amazing 130/1 at the totalizators.

Three year old Spaniard produced a sparkling gallop in the closing stages of The Trophy, and accounted for a group of eleven maidens. The seven furlong race had a strong favourite in Own Asset. This big-made chestnut had been subjected to some steady preparation, and according to most track reporters, he was a lot better than his rivals. Chris Hayes tried his best to settle Own Asset in the early stages of the race, but he realized that he was fighting a hopeless cause. The colt was showing a tendency to run outwards after taking a jump from a wide draw. Chris gave him a tap with his left hand on the neck, and asked him to "go". Own Asset picked up speed and charged to the front. He was chased for most of the way by Sam's Pride and Episcopal. The leader continued his good work till the final stages of the race. It was here that Spaniard got into contention. Producing a rare burst of speed, the Neil Darashah trainee responded to Srinath's handling. He devoured ground on the wide outside and finally won with a measure of comfort. Episcopal got up in time to grab the third spot from a tired Sam's Pride.

The speedy Sunday Storm was expected to romp home to an easy victory in The KN Guruswamy Cup, a sprint handicap for horses in Class II. This sentiment was expressed clearly on the betting boards, as the Padmanabhan trained dark bay was installed at 75/100, while the others led by Hillfiger could be easily backed at 7's and over. Martin Dwyer, who had already won twice with Sunday Storm this season, chose to adopt his usual tactics.  In an effort to make both ends meet, he took him to the front. Suraj brought Irfan Ghatala's Hillfiger with a smooth run at the bend, and went in chase of the leader. Sunday Storm enjoyed a comfortable advantage over Hillfiger as they entered the final furlong. A couple of things happened at this stage. Suraj changed his whip from right to left, and this somehow elicited a brave response from Hillfiger. At almost the same juncture, Sunday Storm got a bit tired. These two factors combined to change the scenario. Hillfiger got up in the last few strides to beat Sunday Storm near the winning post. Thoughts N Actions and Wild Nexus ran on to take the minor placings.

The day began with a runaway victory for Dominic's Violent Storm. On the basis of some decent track work, Ganapathy trained Aspect Of Love was installed as a firm favourite in this race. The hype around this horse was so high, that punters chose to ignore Violent Storm's earlier run in a higher category. He had separated Lady Gaga and Cafe Del Monte in a three way photo in that race. Even though Sreekanth tried his best to keep Aspect Of Love in a striking position, the filly lost pace and dropped out of contention. In the mean time, Violent Storm crept alongside Lightning Express. PS Chouhan waited a little longer before making his final assault. Violent Storm responded to his stick, gained further momentum and tore away from the rest. He won by a widening eight lengths from Scenic Blast, Sparkling Image and Signifies. Aspect Of Love was literally crawling in the final furlong.

Leading jockey Chouhan had another winner during the afternoon. Byramji's Mitraya had won her earlier start in the hands of apprentice Sahanawaz. The veteran trainer chose to entrust the five years old to Chouhan today. It turned out to be a wise decision as the mare needed to be forcefully guided across the wire. Mitraya was tackling a slightly longer trip of seven furlongs in the upper division of The Harvins Trophy. She led from the start and enjoyed a slender advantage over Super Surprise and Thrillseeker till the bend. The race took a serious turn thereafter. Mitraya was involved in a serious duel with Thrillseeker in the straight. They galloped side by side and matched strides right upto the winning post. Chouhan's whip made a big difference as Prabhakaran had no option but to use only his hands and heels. Kripa retained his third spot ahead of a late rushing Smile All The Way. The last named was a bit unlucky, as she had been the victim of some severe interference near the four furlong marker.

The lower division of the above race saw a real close finish. Four horses came charging down the track and ended close to each other.  Chronicle headed Never Say Goodbye in the final furlong and shaped as the likely winner of this race. After losing a lot of ground at the start, Yamas progressed steadily along the inner rails and joined the issue. Voice Of India produced his known late burst and made up much ground on the wide outside. With whips flying, it was Yamas who managed to keep Never Say Goodbye and Voice Of India at bay. A Imran Khan rode a powerful finish astride this Manohar trainee. Chronicle stopped suddenly and failed to save place money for his supporters. Since Voice Of India had raced only a week ago, this race came much to fast for this seven year old. He may perform better after a well-deserved rest.

Sustained support for Pradeep Annaiah's Yourewindsofchange in the last race of the day saw the odds against him shortening as the horses reached the starting gates. The connections weren't bothered by the presence of Tony Bernard in the saddle, as they were confident that the four year old would carry his rider to victory. The Prithviraj camp took their chances with Salsa Touch, as they felt that Imran Chisty would tilt the balance. The former opinion turned out to be right, as Yourewindsofchange made every post a winning one. After taking a good jump from the gates, the free striding horse romped home to an easy victory. Salsa Touch tried his best to make a race of it, but once he saw the front-runner travelling comfortably, he decided to call it a day. The pair finished well clear of Will Still and Right On Time. The winner looks capable of defying his winning penalty.