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By Mahendra Mallya | 18 Jul 2013 | PUNE

Mr Jaydev M. Mody & trainer Bezan Chenoy leading Neona (N S Parmar Up), winner of The Fair Haven Trophy

The opening day of the Pune season could not have been more enjoyable and the ten-race card never seemed too long. The track looked at its best, in fact the lush green turf has never looked better for a long time. Estate officer Nanjappa and his team deserve all praise for the tremendous effort and care that his department has put in and the result of their hard work is an immaculately laid monsoon track. The extension of the monsoon track from 2000 meter-mark to the seven-furlong mark looks a dream!

Racing action too dished out results on expected lines. Majority of the horses that won were fancied – some strongly some at lucrative odds, but garnered decent support. Talking about support, the day also saw a collection drive for the Uttarakhand victims. While the RWITC led the way with a contribution of Rupees Five lakhs, owners, trainers, jockeys and even the Club’s officials pitched in their earnings towards this noble cause, taking this initiative into the second day with a healthy collection over the first.

One can count on trainer Magan Singh Jodha to open his account early and that’s exactly what he did, winning the first race of the season. His charge Domain Anne was strongly backed and the mare was given able support from new import jockey, R Vaibhav, who rode with great confidence.

Sitting up a close third behind Veneziano and Wild Imagination, Vaibhav picked up Domain Anna (Bluegrass Prince – Cosmic Flash) soon on turning for home. While the mare easily managed to get the measure of the fighting Wild Imagination, Veneziano put up dogged resistance only to be dominated by Domain Anna in the final few strides. Miracle of Mercy is the one to have covered a lot of ground and did extremely well to finish on the frame.

Neona  (Ace – Victory And Gold) who had started her winning ways in Pune last year, picked up winning form after losing her way in Mumbai, where she registered just one victory from five starts. She looked fresh and raring to go in the paddock. Maximus, her main rival played up at the gates and was withdrawn at the last minute. It is learnt that Maximus was not hurt and the withdrawal was just a precautionary measure.

Neona set off quickly and was brushed up to hit the front passing Mighty Crusader who had shot out early from the gates. She settled into a nice rhythm and had a comfortable lead as they turned for home. Neona quickened well soon in the straight and darted to a winning lead in no time. Blue Ace, Mighty Crusader and Cent Per Cent simply could not catch up. Demonstrator was the one to accelerate well and although he never looked like questioning the dominance of Neona, he finished on fastest to take the runner-up berth. Blue Ace ended third and may have needed this run.

Trainer Malesh Narredu claimed both the divisions of the Capricorn Trophy for maiden three-year-olds with Rio in the lower division sailing to a smooth victory and Ace Angelfire storming in all guns blazing to clinch the upper division. Both horses were partnered by Neeraj Rawal who was competent.

Rio (Multidimensional – Olivia Valere) started out well chasing Forest Vision into the straight. Holy Bull and You’re The Boss followed the pair. On turning for home, Rio started to move up and apply pressure on Forest Vision. They tussled for a brief while and the Rio charged ahead to run away from the field. Forest Vision ran to take the second spot while You’re the Boss finished well ahead of Holy Bull to earn place money. The rest were never in the hunt.

Ace Angelfire (Hateef – Offshore Anna) settled quickly behind the ‘dip back’ Zaagros who cut a nippy pace right from the start. Four Star General jumped out well to follow these two, but ran green throughout the race. Ace Angelfire singed the turf with a sustained gallop and easily went past Zaagros. Four Star General covered some ground to get ahead of Zaagros, but failed to keep a straight course showing he needs to mature. If he gains in condition and maturity, he won’t have to wait too long for his winning bracket. Ace Angelfire pulled off a neat victory.

Hawaiian Princess extended her reign to Pune after dominating the Mumbai track with a three-in-a-row at the Mahalaxmi. The filly showed that she had retained her winning form and galloped away gamely to score her fourth win on the trot.

Grande Dame was at the helm with Catharsis and Hawaiian Princess in tow, Sharaarat tagging alone on the rails. Bizarro lost all his chances by jumping out late. Grande Dame brought the field into the straight and soon Hawaiian Princess began to mount her assault. She responded spontaneously to her jockey Kamlesh’s call and darted ahead with a strong gallop. None could catch her as she sped away impressively to notch up her first win on the Pune track. Sharaarat found himself stuck on the rails for a brief while. When he broke free, he gained some ground to ward off Set To Fly for the second spot.

The most dominating winner of the day emerged in the concluding race. Dr MAM’s Panthera literally bludgeoned her opponents, making it a one-horse race tearing away from the mouth of the homestretch. He took off from the 400 meter mark and left the entire field stranded. She unleashed a powerful gallop and romped home to score a five-length victory with a measure of ease. Que Sera Sera ran on to finish a distant second and Zidaan improved well in the straight to take the third spot.

Trainer B Prakash also saddled a good double with the well-fancied Divine Inspiration and Josephine, the latter available at nourishing odds. Both the winners were ridden by C.S.Jodha.

Divine Inspiration (Glory of Dancer – Estonia) scored a cool, calculated start to finish victory without encountering any threat right through. The dark bay filly was eased into the lead by jockey CS Jodha and they maintained a comfortable lead coming into the straight. Wish Upon A Star tried to churn a challenge and got a little closer to Divine Inspiration under some hard riding, but made no impact. Divine Inspiration galloped on smoothly to stay ahead all the way, winning by just over a length without exerting too much. Matrioshka never got going, but got into the groove far too late. She did well to end in the money and could show a better result next time out.

Josephine (Kheley-Attitude of Blue) whose last win was in the early part of the Mumbai season surprised the field in the higher division of the Hugo Plate. C.S.Jodha brought the 5 year old from draw 12 to be a close fifth while In The Limelight led the field. Crowned Princess, Autumn Rush and Calypso Queen followed the leader in that order. Into the final run on the home stretch, Crowned Princess and Josephine hurried forward to go past the leader and it was the latter which carried the top weight to a comfortable win. Calypso Queen warmed up late to be the runner-up.

Narendra Lagad trained Queen’s Kiss (King’s Best-Your Welcome) rallied strongly towards the last 100 metres to win the lower division. Into the home straight Queen’s Kiss improved gradually from about seventh position to get into striking position. Laurus Pride, Zaracha and Queen’s Kiss got into line inside the last 100 metres. Dashrath Singh started to ride out Queen’s Kiss strongly and the 5 year old forged ahead to spare two lengths over Zaracha. Laurus Pride finished third with the race favourite Matter of Heart taking the fourth place.

The biggest upset of the day was in the higher division of the Music Man Plate with Imtiaz Sait trained Home Advantage (China Visit-Magical Romance) ridden to victory by Ishwear Pardeshi. Racing a close third, all through along the inner rails, Home Advantage sneaked through the shortest way to emerge in front and win. The favourite War Horse started to move closer towards the finish but fell short by a length. Il Moran finished third.

For the professionals the trainer jockey combinations of Mallesh Narredu, Neeraj Rawal and B.Prakash, C.S.Jodha scored a double each on the opening day of the season.