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By Mahendra Mallya | 04 Aug 2013 | PUNE

Honours Shared between Storm Tracker & Rajasthan Royals in The Turf Club Trophy (Gr.3)

Sunday’s races at Pune were marked for another noble cause with the running or the ‘Race of Hope’ in aid of the Indian Cancer Society. The RWITC led the charity drive with a contribution of Rs two lakh, followed by Commander Deepak Nair, head honcho f the Theur Hamlet donating Rs 1.5 lakh to the Indian Cancer Society. Personal contributions also poured in from the Shirke family and Mr Dhunjibhoy, owners of Trisara who gave away the entire winning stakes to the cause. Mr Champaklal M Shah, member of the club donated Rs 25,000/- and the Western India Horse Owners Association chipped in with Rs 25,000/- as well. A sizeable number of the general public too came together and opened their purses and donated generously to make the drive successful. Dr (Mrs) Purna Kurkure, member of the managing committee of the Indian Cancer Society, expressed gratitude to all those who contributed selflessly and appreciated the stance taken by the RWITC in providing a platform for such acts of social responsibility.

The race of the day certainly was the feature event the Turf Club Trophy (Gr3). The nine horses in the fray took a level jump and it was the bottom weighted yuville, who darted to the front to make the pace. Star Trainer quickly sat on her tail with Storm Tracker, Rajasthan Royals and Weizhou following them in close proximity. Hachiko raced on the outsides about four off the fence while Orito and Cent Per Cent made up the bunch; Master Bullet trailed them all by a good 3 to 4 lengths.

Yuville and Star Trainer ushered the field in and fell back. Storm Tracker and Rajasthan Royals got aggressive and jostled with one another for the early upper hand in the straight. Storm Tracker had a very slight advantage and had to give it all to hold on to it. Rajasthan Royals played the challenger and fought on insistently all through. Very little separated the duo and the mounting suspense brought the race to a feverish pitch. Last start winner Weizhou was lurking around as well but the pair in front allowed no intervention by any third party.

Jockeys Imran Chisty atop Storm Tracker and R Vaibhav aboard Rajasthan Royals were at their fiery best. Just when it looked like Storm Tracker may nose out Rajasthan Royals, Vaibhav managed to get that wee bit of extra ounce from Rajasthan Royals to make a final desperate lunge for the wire. The finish indeed was a blinder.   

Storm Tracker and Rajasthan Royals had provided prolonged excitement to the crowded grand stands in a gripping fight that started round the bend and went on all the way to the wire. This one was so tightly fought that even the camera could not separate the two! The judges after close scrutiny declared a dead-heat for the first place! It was a fitting result for the brave effort by both horses and their jockeys.

The Theur hamlet Trophy saw a new sponsor associating with the RWITC. The nine-furlong race had nine runners with Mars garnering prime support. Mars didn’t disappoint his followers but there was some anxiety towards the closing stages of the race.

It was You’re the Boss who went into the lead with Mars on his tail, Fortune Favours, Jen’s Secret and Queen were close behind. Zembezi raced in the rear. As they turned for home, Mars cruised into the lead but soon was off the bridle. Catching up fast was Queen who made her move past the 400. Zembezi improved notches and Mars was suddenly fighting for survival. He cashed in on his lead and kicked on and just managed to ward off a lively bid from Queen. Zembezi too joined in at the finish, but did not look as threatening as Queen did. In the end, followers of the favourite breathed a sigh of relief as Mars held on for dear life against Queen’s potent assault.

The Race of Hope Gold Cup had two divisions and the upper division saw Trisara earning her winning bracket in another thrilling race. Four Star General was the firm favourite (10 to 8 on), but Trisara also got backed down heavily at race time. Trisara (Verglas – Tapioca) opened as the 11/2 second favourite and was backed down to run at less than half the price that was offered on her initially. The rest were at longer odds and the trends proved right as the two top fancies were clear seven lengths ahead of the rest.

At business time, Four Star General was electric at the start and assumed command at the go. Trisara settled into the second position with Natalian Express and others going through the motion. Four Star General was traveling well as the rounded the bend and looked on course to his maiden win. Trisara had other ideas; she was a trifle late though in her final acceleration, but when she did she came with a singeing gallop and shocked the favourite close to the winning post. This might sound like a post thought on hindsight, but honestly, in the paddock looks, Trisara looked more like a winner than the favourite. I also felt that Trisara would prefer more distance and the manner of her victory does suggest so.  As for Four Star General, he did everything right, but for the second time running, found one better. He too is a good type and will not have to wait too long for his day.

The lower division of the race was picked up by the Sunderji trained One Kept Secret (Black Cash – Bonjour Tristesse) in a convincing manner. One Kept Secret matched strides with My Freedom and the pair led the field into the straight. Once in, One Kept Secret got going and soon amassed a good lead. My Freedom lost the plot and fell back. Fontanelle progressed considerably and started to bridge the gap, passing My Freedom and Zaagros comfortably. The winner was too good and had a decisive lead in the final furlong and Fontanelle too was too late on the scene. To sum it up, One Kept Secret was far too superior on the day.

Sunderji had earlier scored with Matter of Heart (Alnasr Alwasheek – La Unique) over a six-furlong sprint, beating luckless favourite Act of War in the process. This is the fourth time that Act of War ended runner up and is still on the lookout for the elusive winning bracket. He looked all set to make it count when he shot into the lead going past the early leader Gottawearshades and Valorozky, who had led briefly early in the straight.

Matter of Heart, entrusted to five-kilo allowance claiming jockey Prasad, was last to turn for home, but produced a sensational gallop across the stands to overwhelm Act of War frustratingly close home. Prasad shifted out on straightening for home and then pushed matter of heart vigorously to land the spoils in a scintillating manner. Palace Girl ran on to finish third ahead of Laurus Pride. Monteray was withdrawn at the gates.

Cactus Cash (Sedgefield – Wishing on a Star) looked overbearing, when he broke into his strides and had it easy to pick up the Mayor’s Trophy beating a small field comprehensively. He took off to lead the field that raced in a single file with Osric, Mufasa, Only One, Splendid Light and Dixie Delight following Cactus Cash in that order. On turning for home, Cactus Cash, with jockey R Vaibhav in the saddle, galloped on gallantly and they were soon out of bounds for the rest. Only One went all out, but did not make any impact on the winner. Cactus Cash cashed in on his early lead and sped away to amass more than six lengths at the winning post. He had a lot left in the tank implying that distance is his forte.

Mountbatten (Rock of Gibraltar – Sharatila) demolished his opponents and posted a facile victory in an emphatic fashion. The field was small, however Sun Salutation and Appalachia were well supported with Honest Pleasure enjoying a healthy share of the betting. Mountbatten was at nourishing odds.

At the start Polynesia settled to lead them all and Mountbatten was quick to move into the second position. Honest Pleasure ran along the rails with Sun Salutation and Appalachia close behind. Mountbatten easily sailed past Polynesia who looked listless coming into the straight. Honest Pleasure moved to second and went about the task of catching up with Mountbatten. Sun Salutation moved to the outside but failed to pick up from there on. Appalachia improved along the rails but none were posing any threat to Mountbatten who had the race in firm clasp long way from home. Mountbatten was in top form and went even further from Honest Pleasure in the final few strides. Appalachia did his best but could only finish a close third behind Honest Pleasure. Mountbatten was most impressive and looks a solid middle distance runner. Keep an eye, he could provide an encore if he is placed judiciously next time out, even over a slightly longer trip.

Ceasarina (Oath – Calpurnia) had dropped the rider on the way to the gates and had bolted away. It would have not been surprising had Ceasarina pulled out at the last minute. However, trainer Narendra Lagad had no issues on going ahead and run Ceasarina. That decision proved spot on as Ceasarina took that as a warm up and got down to business from the first stride. Prime favourite Yardstick was quick to join Ceasarina and the pair were comfortably ahead of Eveready and the rest.

Ceasarina showed a clean pair of heels and on turning for home and left the field cold in a display of sheer speed. Jockey Bhanu Pratap Singh made his first ride in Pune a winning one. It helped that Ceasarina was in the kind mood she was in and made his job that much easier. Eveready covered a lot of deficit and did well to beat yardstick for the runner up slot. Yardstick disappointed a large following and did not raise any hope at any stage.

Rising Angel (Ontario – Ganga Purna) rose to the occasion and produced her best after long. She had shown some spark in her last outing and true to that run, shot out of the gates to pile a handy lead. Favourite Wild Imagination was in second, but a fair distance away. At the turn, Stylish Strokes in trying to shift out made contact with Midnight Lady and went sprawling on the turf. Fortunately jockey R Vaibhav escaped unhurt and he went on to fulfill his riding engagements for the day.

Meanwhile, Rising Angel kept her good work going and left it to the others to catch up with her. Wild Imagination started to draw closer but CS Jodha ensured that Rising Angel kept the momentum going all the way and carved a narrow victory. Wild Imagination ended just over a length behind the winner. Mention must also be made of Rio Del Ray, who was tailed off last before the bend, yet finished third with a dazzling last ditch effort that might make him a candidate to watch over a slightly longer sprint.

Samay Balwan (Inhabitant – Golden Collection) scraped through in the last race of the day to post his second career win after a gap of one year. He last won in Pune 2012 over similar distance and class. He took over the running early and looked fairly safe approaching the final furlong. However, in the dying stages, he was under dual attack from Adams Prince from the rial side and Carpe Diem on his outside. Jockey Akash Agarwal will view this race with pride as he managed to stay ahead at the all important end and his hard work paid off well. Adams Prince was the fastest in the straight and although he got lucky to get passage through the rails, he was not lucky enough to make it count, falling short by the thinnest of margins. Carpe Diem appeared a shade too late else, she too could have a say at the finish.

For the professionals, trainers Sk Sunderji, Pesi Shroff and Narendra Lagad saddled a double each, while jockeys A Sandesh and R Vaibhav scored a brace each.