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Time for bookies to prosper as outsiders have the upper hand

By Usman Rangila | 27 Jul 2001 | PUNE

Star Shine ( C Rajendra up ), winning the fair wood trophy from Final Authority ( S N Chavan up )

It is certainly not good news for race-goers when jockeys of the calibre of C. Rajendra, B. Prakash and M. Narredu fail to live up to the expectations of their fans. So, for the second week in succession, the outcome of Friday’s races at Pune was not what the average punter hopes for at the end of the day. And it turned out to be a disastrous day for the followers of big money with only two horses — Destiny Calling and Star Shine, managing to hold the fort amidst the ruins.

Potential Force and Inspire turned out to be the two main culprits who dealt a major blow to the finances of the bettors. The defeats of Desert Fighter, Discover and Dancing Dreams did not help the cause of the punters either. The victories of Destiny Calling and Star Shine were the only bright spots on this gloomy day.

After Grey Area had shot his bolt when bringing home the field of ten for the Prince of Ramgarh Trophy, jockey Mark Gallagher aboard Destiny Calling (Don’t Forget Me-I Am Calling You) shifted gears and drew a magnificent response from her. The three-year-old filly stretched out for an effortless victory over Beau Wonder and Suratha. Destiny Calling happened to be one of the three winners led in by trainer Shiraz Sunderji.

A perfectionist to the core and carrying a reputation for his hard work, Shiraz has been able to bring about an upward swing in the performance level of Knoxville after it had hit the bottom during his Mumbai campaign. The well-bred four-year-old gelding Knoxville (Placerville-Shocking) regained his form in the Cupid Plate. Mark Gallagher had to go all out on Knoxville to contain the challenge of Desert Fighter who was carrying the public purse. B. Prakash appeared to have gone a bit soft on the Faisal Abbas trainee but for which he could have easily landed the spoils. The third winner for Shiraz came in the form of Natural Spark. The resolve shown by B. Prakash astride Majestic Hills deprived Sunderji of would have been his fourth winner of the day in Voice of Freedom.

Star Shine (Portroe-Worthwhile) kept her date with success in the Fair Wood Trophy, a mile event for horses in the highest class. The Narendra Lagad nursed filly waited to pounce on the leaders till the final turn arrived and even as the field skirted the false rails, Star Shine slipped into the lead to go on and win in style. Final Authority and Realism waged a battle for supremacy that was lost well before the winning post had arrived. Having had to chase Super Sunrise for most of the journey, Signal Tap seemed to have lost interest and ended a disappointing fifth.

His presence on the judges’ board on all the four occasions he visited the Mahalaxmi tracks and the fact that he was competing in the lowest class forced people not to look beyond Potential Force. The candidate nurtured by one of Western India’s topmost professionals, Imtiaz Sait, veered out alarmingly when coming into the contention at the top of the straight. With jockey Rajendra unable the control the drift, Potential Force (Batzushka-Zarvari) ended up running on the outer sand track losing all chances of finishing on the frame. Meanwhile, second favourite Natural Spark (Rebounding Thrill-Solitary Reaper) despite cutting an erratic path finished on with good purpose towards the end to extinguish the hopes of My Opinion (Cruachan-Angelina Ballerina) who had all but sewn up the race close home.

Jockey Rajendra when asked to pinpoint the reason for Potential Force’s dismal showing said: "Probably it was due to a bad mouth. I had absolutely no control over the Potential Force and I was getting no response from him during the race. In fact the Pune course is such that the horses are almost travelling in a curve and it is difficult to settle a horse like Potential Force who is inclined to hang. He caught the bit and swerved to the left despite my best efforts to control him." However, the senior veterinary officer checked Potential Force for any abnormality in the mouth but found nothing of that sort. Efforts to obtain the opinion of trainer Imtiaz Sait did not materialize as he had left the racecourse immediately after this race.

The earlier experience of trusting Inspire with their money that turned into fodder for bookies was no lesson for punters who decided to embark on a similar and expensive adventure again. The Hormuz Antia-groomed filly by Mischevious Music out of Look though managing to get hold of the early initiative flattered to deceive and succumbed meekly to the onslaught of Maratha Princess (Conquering Hero-Lady of Legend). The winner belongs to the string trained by M. K. Jadhav and had received admirable support in the saddle from jockey R. Rupesh.

Apprentice K. Deepesh, who received a pardon from the RWITC authorities towards the end of the Mumbai season, partnered the friendless Round Trip to a stunning victory over Loretta, Quick Decision and Tiger Talk. The last three named were involved in a fierce battle in the last furlong before Round Trip decided to put his best foot forward. Discover another horse sent out by Imtiaz Sait with C. Rajendra in saddle, never seemed to be in the hunt and ran a pathetic race.

A bit of gritty display from B. Prakash was what it took for Majestic Hills to survive in the last race of the day. The Placerville progeny was found giving company to the "coup leader" Stellar Angel in straying from a straight course in the final run in. Prakash corrected the drift of Majestic Hills just in time to save himself the humiliation of an impending defeat at the hands of rank outsider Voice of Freedom. Stellar Angel lost the third berth to the late finishing Right Moment.