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Commander Dashrath Singh is Nanoli Pune Derby Hero

By Mahendra Mallya | 14 Oct 2012 | PUNE

Trainer Bezan Chenoy leading Commander (Dashrath Singh Up), winner of The Nanoli Stud Pune Derby (Gr.1)

The Nanoli Pune Derby was touted as an open race and the suspense was very much in the air. The crowd that thronged and jostled for a vantage spot, was treated to some fantastic racing action. The final finish was befitting a race of such high stature. The premier race of the season was a humdinger, fought all the way to the wire by two gritty three-year-olds and two determined young jockeys. It just couldn’t be better. Commander (Noverre – Momentarily) deserved to win, however Shivalik Hero (Rebuttal – Mullagh) did not deserve to lose. He didn’t! He only finished second by a blink-of-the-eye-moment.  He won as many accolades for bringing alive the contest as did Commander for his breathtaking victory. The stories that people would carry back home, the debates, arguments and cross-arguments that this particular race would throw open, will surely kindle the Nanoli Pune Derby fire for a long time to come. In the end, it was the sport of horseracing that won!

On the track however, there was not a moment of calm before the storm. They were off with a bang and the jostling for strategized positions was obvious from the moment the gates flung open. An Acquired Taste got the first jitters as he clipped and nearly went off balance. He was quick to recover however, but the jolt may surely have put him off at least momentarily, giving him a valid reason to plead that this run may best be ignored.

Angel Crown set a true pace and led showing some alacrity. He was followed by Tintinnabulation and Okavango. Shivalik Hero settled nicely in fourth, the rest were in a huddle and the two fillies in the rear. The race further picked up momentum past the 800, but a majority of the field slowly faded out of the scene as they got closer to the final turn.

Approaching the business end, it was Tintinnabulation who took charge early in the straight. Shivalik Hero soon pounced on the new leader. Commander seemed to know that Shivalik Hero was his main threat and was stalking him all the time, aping the former’s moves and sticking just behind him.

Tintinnabulation fought as long as he could, and gave in with more than a furlong to go (this was surprisingly too early). From there on it was Shivalik Hero and Commander who began a stride for stride battle that went all the way to the wire. Both horses were under pressure and were trifle erratic too. The two galloped on the wider side of the track closer to the erupting Grand Stands. Commander had a very slight upper hand, but Shivalik Hero fought gallantly to keep his chances alive getting the crowd on their feet, screaming in frenzy. Going for the wire, Commander was a tad too imposing and although the verdict was a short-head, Commander did look the winner at the closing stages of the race.

Commander is owned by M/s Gautam Thapar & Sultan Singh and bred at the Sohna Stud Farm. He came in as a late entry paying a hefty fee which was well worth it. The Bezan Chenoy ward was ridden powerfully and skillfully by young jockey Dashrath Singh who in the process took his season's win tally past the reigning leader A Sandesh. The battle for the jockey Championship is now heading for a close finish as well, as is the fight between Dallas Todywalla and Narendra Lagad for the Trainers’ Championship.  

The presentation party comprised of the Dhunjibhoy family and their guests of honour Lt Gen AK Singh and Mr Gulabrao Pol, Commissioner of Police, Pune city, along with the Chairman of the RWITC, Mr Vivek Jain and Champaklal Zaveri, Member of the Managing Committee of the Club.  

Mr Dhunjibhoy gracefully invited the Lt Gen and the Commissioner to jointly present the glittering trophy. This was received by trainer Bezan Chenoy, who was surprisingly calm and did not emote any excitement nor did he say a word on his latest conquest.  

Mr KN Dhunjibhoy was forthcoming though. “It was a fantastic race and one of the best run races in recent times,” said Mr Khushroo Dhunjibhoy, the sponsor of the Nanoli Pune Derby (Gr 1). Although I did not have any of my horses in the race, I was riveted to the action all the way. It is such gripping action that makes horseracing the royal sport it is! As sponsors we are happy at the turn out and the IGCC bringing in the Oktoberfest as an added celebration, complements the festive occasion that horseracing is all about. Mr Peter Deubet has been an important cog in bringing together a spicy weekend. The crowd, I am sure have been treated to some great action on and off the track as well,” he concluded.

“Seventeen years of sponsorship and counting,” said Mr Vivek Jain, Chairman of the RWITC. “I express my gratitude to the Nanoli Stud Farm and to Mr Khushroo Dhunjibhoy in particular, for the magnanimous sponsorship of the Pune Derby over all these years. The IGCC and the Nanoli Stud Farm have always given Pune an extended festive weekend with three nights of revelry and top racing action. I acknowledge and appreciate the long association and look forward to their continued support for years to come. The Derby in itself was an exhibition of supreme quality and two top horses fought out the finish in a brilliant fashion. This is racing action at its best,” said Mr Jain.

This was a kind of race one would travel any distance to watch. For the Pune patrons, this race will serve as fodder for the inevitable postmortem and the expert hindsight quips for long. There could emerge only one hero from any gruesome duel and this time it was Commander, who thwarted a truly heroic attempt of Shivalik Hero.