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Gates of Heaven, Astromia Win Cantonment Board Trophies

By Mahendra Mallya | 27 Oct 2012 | PUNE

Trainer M Narredu leading Astromia (D K Ashish Up), winner of The Pune Cantonment Board Trophy Div-2

The penultimate day for the Pune Season 2012 saw a rather large ground fill the stands. The long card of 11 events generated an interesting card and even in the smaller fields the bookmakers odds were not to cramped, save Astromia – the only one in the half-money region on  the day. And although only two favorites obliged, there was no ‘bombshell at the totes’ as such. Saba and Banana Boy were the only ones that paid out rich dividends despite their good effort in their previous outings.

Both the divisions of the Pune Cantonment Board Trophy were won by prime favorites. The upper division saw Gates of Heaven (Ontario – Silver Jordan), quoted at even-money, come through the generous opening on the inner rails and streak ahead for a comfortable victory.

As the gates flung open, Starsonboard darted forward to lead with Eveready in close attendance. Gates of Heaven and Basic Life chased the duo in front. At the turn, Starsonboard shifted out, thus opening the gates of a heavenly pathway to the Gates of Heaven. The favourite did not wait for a second invitation and gleefully accepted the largess. Eveready was forced to move out as a result, forcing Basic Life to make his run from further wide outside. Gates of Heaven showed good acceleration and went sailing clear past the distance post and none posed a threat. Jockey A Sandesh piloted the Mansoor Shah trainee without trouble or extra effort to score a comfortable maiden victory as expected. Eveready did not make much impression on the winner, while basic Life moved closer to Eveready to end a fair third.

Astromia (Rebuttal – Dancing Dreams) finally came good and scored a facile victory without fuss. She jumped out well and joined Monsieur Strauss to lead the field by a comfortable margin. The pair went at a quick paced gallop and was clear of Your Lordship as they turned for home. Astromia was in hurry to dash to her maiden win and jockey DK Ashish knew best that he did not have to ‘over spend’ on Astromia. The Malesh Narredu trained filly eased her way to the front and galloped away to score an emphatic victory. Monsieur Strauss, when given a crack, shifted out with a sudden jerk but galloped on to claim the runner-up berth ahead of Your Lordship. The rest were too far back to make any impact on the race.

Trainer Mansoor Shah had earlier saddled Foxtrot (Ontario – Thirty Something) to his second successive victory. Jockey Sandesh shot out from an inside draw and settled in the fourth position in the early stages behind Aflame, Hill Ranger and Always Smile. Hill Ranger made an aggressive charge forward to get past Aflame while taking the turn and soon assumed charge. Aflame was not one to give up easily and he renewed his bid for the lead. Foxtrot switched lanes and made a strong surge forward to join these two and zipped past the fighting duo in the final furlong to stretch out nicely and score convincingly. Hill Ranger was overwhelmed while Aflame ended a fighting third. Rising Angle improved one position to finish in the frame at the cost of Always Smile.

Silver Birch (Indesatchel – Safinaz) surfaced to her best and outclassed her small set of rivals including hot favourite Bizarro who has disappointed twice now after his blazing win in his first run this season. As Snow Blaze dictated the early pace, Silver Birch perched on the leader’s tail. Bizarro and White Knight raced together and Déjà vu raced in the rear. Silver Birch took off soon on entering the straight and picked up momentum. She had established a solid lead and the way Bizarro was struggling to catch up, Silver Birch looked even more belligerent in her bid for victory. Snow Blaze did her best to stave off Bizarro, but gave it away in the last few strides. Déjà vu performed below par. He never looked the part and looked woefully below his best especially considering his big wins in Bangalore. The layoff surely did him in and this run may be struck off as a bad day in office. He is certainly capable of a better showing.

Step Up (Jeremy – Mix Me up) was destined to contribute towards her master’s winning tally for the championship and hung in there to win a close call. She was a tad fortunate that In The Limelight faltered under pressure in the steamy gallop for the finish.

Staying Alive had led the field home with the two prime fancies – In The Limelight and Step Up in tow. Staying Alive stayed in contention longer than expected. Step Up made a forward surge and got to Staying Alive with about 300 to go. In The Limelight wasted precious time in focusing herself and put an erratic stride or two. That cost her dearly as Step Up shot away to a handy lead and left it for the others to do the catching up. She maintained her momentum, never stepping it up in the final furlong. In The Limelight came charging down once she was in control of her bearings and covered a lot of ground. Flying Kiss too left a lot to be done in the last part and she too came at tearing speed. Providence and the winning post were both on Step Up’s side and saved the filly from the clutches of defeat. Step Up hung on for dear life as both In The Limelight and Flying Kiss failed to hunt her down, both passing her a stride after the post! In The Limelight in particular was most unlucky to have lost in the manner he did.

Dallas Todywalla propped his tally up with another nail-biting finish in the last race of the day. The dash for the upper-hand began from the word go and Bongani did well to pick it up nicely with a fiery pace. Hot favourite Scarlet Regent was right alongside but for reasons perplexing, was nowhere near his previous best. He simply wouldn’t gallop and ended disappointingly in the rut after being in box seat at the top of the straight.

Bongani was fighting hard to keep her lead, but the rest were closing in rapidly. Five-kilo claimer Prabhu Naidu astride Fortuner went for the drooling gap on the rails but would have learnt his lesson not to fall for such common ploys played time to time in the game. He had to check his mount and the boy did well to wriggle out and prepare for a fresh bid. Celsius shined very briefly but failed to sustain. Amika meanwhile had covered considerable ground and was preparing for her final assault.

Dashrath Singh does not lose many when given such opportunities and he flew to the finish with a powerful charge. Fortuner and Amika (Senure – So Amazing) battled hard but the better equipped Dashrath sealed the issue timing the bob of the head precisely, to edge out an unlucky Fortuner. Native Lady too had a patchy run most of the way, but emerged with a good gallop in the end, to edge out Bongani for the place money.     

Narendra Lagad, the reigning champion on the Pune turf, began the day with a solid win with his charge So True (Warrshan – So Shocking) scoring her second victory on the trot. The in-form mare bludgeoned the opposition with an aggressive run while winning the opening race of the day leading right from the start all the way to the finish.

So True, with Srikanth Kamble in the saddle, had just one mission – take jump, hit front and carry on. They did just that and after turning for home, So True unleashed a devastating run to stretch out further and further away from her hapless rivals. Towering High who was closest to her, simply watched her plunder the turf and skip away. Arabian Chief moved up places to take the runer up berth just ahead of Rio Del Ray.

Naren had to wait until the 8th race of the day to lead in another winner. Red Tabasco (Royal Kingdom – Musical Pepper) waited his turn as stable mate Ceasarina led the bunch. He moved up at the turn to be second and once in the straight, pushed ahead and romped home lengthening his strides. By the time they were mid-way up the straight, the only fight on was for the minor placing. Red Tabasco asserted himself to win with a comfortable margin. Ceasarina did well to take the runner up berth while Gararo fought back hard to wrest back the third spot from Riding on the Storm.

Set To Fly was one of the prime fancies to bite the dust where horses with nourishing odds ruled supreme. But the winner in Set to Fly’s was at a whopping 15 to 1. Saba (Glory of Dancer – Fast Trick) had placed in all her starts but the last one over a mile. That perhaps didn’t impress the followers of form and she was completely neglected in the betting ring.

Set To Fly with her smart last start victory and the fact that she nearly beat the Nanoli Derby winner Commander in her earlier engagement, was the obvious first pick of the punters. The bookies seemed to have done their homework well and increased the ante marginally to encourage more wager on the favourite. She closed at 6/4 against after opening just above the even-money mark.

Zakynthos made the early running with Seven Seas, El Clasico and Set To Fly close behind. Saba was making her run along the rails and was positions behind and didn’t mind the wait. Zakynthos ran out of steam after leading the field in and Seven Seas too was not going anywhere. Set To Fly had a great chance to storm ahead and win, but she implied that the mile trip was not one she was best suited for. She didn’t actually fall back, but neither did she surge forward forcefully. Saba soon made her presence felt and came tearing down. At the same juncture, even Snow Mountain started to warm up nicely. Saba and Snow Mountain fought out a grim battle and pulled well ahead of the rest. Saba galloped stubbornly and successfully warded off Snow Mountain’s strong challenge. Star Mountain wove her way around horses and ended a decent third.

Banana Boy (Senure – Lovely Fantasy) had ended a notable third in his last outing in a close finish. That seemed to have spurred him on and this time he did the full Monty winning against the odds.  Dropping to fourth after the initial second position that he held at the jump, Banana Boy got into a fine rhythm and was content to let Double Diamond enjoy a healthy lead until well into the straight. Sea Pearl and Reckless Romeo were the two behind the leader.

Double Diamond held the fort for quite a while into the straight when Banana Boy stormed past with a sudden burst. Once in the lead, Banana Boy sealed all hope for the others and he romped home to an inspiring victory. Vaile Rouge improved to finish second beating the tote favourite Octopaul to third. Double Diamond held on well to end in the frame.

Speed Up (Alnasr Alwasheek – Queen of Swords) surfaced from the rear of the mid-bunch to assert himself in the final furlong to win in a hard fought finish. Al Zamarud readily took charge from the initial leader Fajr on turning for home. Speed up moved quickly in the straight and soon started to chase down Al Zamarud. The pair fought briefly and Speed up got the measure of Al Zamarud closer home to prevail by a narrow margin. Xenia warmed up far too late and won her fight with Twittillator but only for the place money. Twittillator covered a lot of ground in the straight and did well to end alongside the top three.

For the professionals, trainers Dallas Todywalla, Narendra Lagad and Mansoor Shah saddled a double each, while Dashrath Singh and A Sandesh rode home two winners each.