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By Mahendra Mallya | 01 Sep 2013 | PUNE

Ishpingo (Dashrath Singh Up), winner of The Akkasaheb Maharaj Trophy

The weekend races at Pune were largely on predictable note, as most of the 16 races (one being null and void) were won by fancied horses. Followers of form ought to have raked in profits and also resurrected confidence on the form books after taking a major jolt in the recent past. The only three-figure payout on the tote over the weekend was on Edwina and one wouldn’t term the filly a ‘rank outsider’ either. She may not have been in the betting, but was not entirely out of the reckoning either, unlike say Allegiance or even Ishpingo during his last victory, to mention just a couple. On Sunday, not a single outsider caused any flutter as almost all prime favourites obliged and in the two races that they didn’t – Aigaion and Razeenaa, the second in demand - Papakura & Antonius Maximus returned victorious. Certainly a lot less number of torn race books and crumpled tote tickets were strewn around the premises!

There were some fine performances on the day. But those that stood out were Ishpingo, Dancing Phoenix and Analeah among the equines and jockeys Dashrath Singh and CS Jodha for the pros.

Ishpingo (Major Impact – Speed of Light) was taking on a set of top class sprinters including the Sprinters’ Cup champion Neyfn. Although his last start victory was a convincing effort, Ishpingo was confronting an even tougher set. On the totes, Nefyn was the most popular wager, however, with the bookies Ishpingo, at 7/2, commanded the top billing.

Amadeus, Weizhou and Ishpingo darted to the front o the jump with very little between them. Star Trainer, Master Bullet and Nefyn were huddled together in the mid-bunch with Amazing Desire on the outside. Orito was a couple of lengths behind the bunch with Ancient Wonder tailing the field by over three lengths.

Amadeus was woefully out of form and dropped out of contention soon after guiding the field round the turn. Weizhou took charge briefly just before Dashrath Singh shifted to top gear, producing Ishpingo on the outside and ensuring clear turf ahead. Ishpingo bounded forward gathering good speed and was soon well ahead approaching the distance post. Nefyn moved to second, but was not gaining on Ishpingo. Ancient Wonder surfaced from the rear and picked up momentum in the last 100 meters, catching up with Ishpingo at a good rate. However, Ishpingo had useful lead in the bank and that held him in good stead at the wire. Ancient Wonder fell short by just a neck, implying that had been any better than the last position he was in at the turn, he could have turned the tables on Ishpingo. However, Ishpingo proved that his last win was no fluke and he now establishes himself as a sprinter of repute. Full marks to trainer Faisal Abbas for keeping his ward fully fit and the improvement Ishpingo showed in winning the Akkasaheb Maharaj Trophy. Nefyn looked a tad gross in the paddock and this run surely will strip him fitter. He ended just over a length away from the winner and will bide his time.

Another star performance came from Analeah (Multidimensional – Prevalence) whose fashionable debut showed plenty of promise. The Shroff trained filly looked a cut above in the paddock and this had a huge impact in the betting ring. The price on her came crashing down and from 13/10 ante-post, Analeah was backed down to 7/10 at race time. She caused her backers ‘zero tension’ and romped home a very easy winner. She was ranging along in fourth or fifth where from she dismissed the rest to take charge early in the homestretch. From there on it was an easy canter to victory for Analeah who won effortlessly. She showed more than a hint of class and it would be interesting to follow her progress. Analeah certainly is a filly with a great future.  

The Panchshil Million for three-year-olds had nine in the fray and Indian Touch was installed the prime fancy. Indian Touch (Kheleyf – Indian’s Feather), the 6/4 favourite, lived up to the soaring expectations and ran a cracker of a race making every post a winning one, leading all through the seven-furlong race. Trisara and Rekindle were in chase from the start, while Deep Diver made his bid in the straight. Karthik trained Indian Touch stormed further ahead once they turned for home and soon helped herself to a handy lead. She came into the final furlong with a lot in reserve when Deep Diver began to bridge the gap. Deep Diver was hanging out a wee bit, hence, took his time in getting into rhythm. That cost him dearly as when he found his touch and speed, there was very little ground for him to convert his good effort into a winning one. Indian Touch never let her clasp off the early advantage and held on by a narrow margin to bag her second race this season. Trisara ended some distance away to earn place money, without bothering the winner, nor resisting when Deep Diver went past her. Caruso, who was not in any position to make an impact, covered a lot of ground and managed to take a slot in the frame. Isadoro disappointed and ended at the tail end of the field. War horse bolted on his way out and was withdrawn.

Dancing Phoenix (Phoenix Tower – All Dancing) displayed his cracking pace and showed that over the scurry, he was right among the top class horses. Jockey CS Jodha had little difficulty in darting to the lead with Dancing Phoenix showing high alacrity on the jump and spurting ahead to set a quick pace. Anahi and Turf Lightning were trying to keep pace while Emerging Star found the initial pace too hot and trailed by over four lengths.

Dancing Phoenix carried on her good work, capitalizing on the initial speed and then accelerating further once they turned for home. Anahi tried hard to get closer to the leader, but Dancing Phoenix was simply too fast. The ‘odds on’ raced away and clear to win the Odds On Trophy with absolute ease taming his rivals completely, and looking good to have another go in his next outing, if over a similar scurry.

Papakura (Senure – Autocop) brushed aside favourite Aigaion and notched his first win in Pune, taking his win tally to 4 from 10 outings. Set To Fly and Mable dashed to the front with Papakura and Aigaion following a couple of lengths away. Aigaion seemed to struggle as early as near the 800 meter mark and fell back at that juncture. Set To Fly too seems to have lost a bit of sheen as her bid petered out soon on turning for home. Mable led until Papakura surged past him and Dashrath Singh encountered no resistance as he marched on ahead to score a victory practically unchallenged. Aigaion surely looked in some distress and this run may just be ignored. Mable did much better than his fancied stablemate and over a shorter sprint he can come right into the reckoning.

Trainer Malesh Narredu increased his season’s tally closest to the double figure mark sending out two winners late in the day. The first one fell into his lap as favourite Four Star General failed to oblige for third time in a row. It was indeed frustrating to watch Four Star General crumbling down after putting up a fairly good gallop in first half of the race. Four Star General  sped to the front and made his run close to the rails, a perfect start for the six-furlong sprint. He worked up decent speed although he was not keeping a steady head. Those that were rallying close behind him were Brown Dynamite, Concorde, Midnight Run and Navada, but they all seemed to be putting in effort in keeping up with Four Star General. Ancient Warrior was behind this bunch and had settled well along the rails biding his time.

The first major folly from Four Star General was when he turned for home. He went wide and took an exaggerated turn providing a huge gap to Ancient Warrior to slip in and go for the kill. Even the experienced jockey YS Srinath failed to keep the dark bay gelding on an even keel, as Four Star General started loafing around and running erratically. He was anything but focused to the task. Neeraj Rawal grabbed the opportunity gratefully and cashed in on the favourite’s lapse to get past in the final fifty meters and guide Ancient Warrior (Rebuttal – Anacita) to his maiden victory. Four Star General literally snatched defeat from victory and this was not the first time he has thrown away an opportunity. Just By Chance covered a lot of ground and responded well towards the end to peg back Midnight Run for place money.

Narredu’s second success was with Bombardier (Steinbeck – Only Royale) and this was a lot more convincing victory. Bombadier had come from a long way back for his dramatic victory last tie out, but this time he wasn’t taking any chances. Jockey DK Ashish was purposeful right from the outset and was quick to get into a good position as Ice Zone set the tone. Bombardier was improving constantly and was right up with the leader on entering the straight. He smoothly surged to the front and quickened well to build a winning lead. The chase for the rest was futile, as Bombardier galloped on gamely to keep the rest at a safe distance. Mon Ami ran on to finish a decent second and Zidaan too returned with pluses to take the place money.

The most thrilling race of the day was the Artois Plate, involving the two top fancies Razeenaa and Antonius Maximus in a long battle for success. Allegiance’s runaway tactics didn’t work this time and her runaway lead was cut short long before the final turn. Razeenaa was right on cue as they entered the straight and soon Antonius Maximus came alongside and the pair started their ‘stretch-long’ battle early in the straight. Razeeenaa had a slight upper hand but Antonius Maximus was looming large on her outside. They fought every inch of the last 400 meters and hit the wire together. Both were ridden all out and in a mile-and-half race this kind of finish elevates the thrill even more. Antonius Maximus provided his owner, Birthday Girl – Mrs Lynn Deas the perfect birthday present. Nothing brings more joy to an owner than his/her horse winning. And a finish of this sort is an icing on the cake! “Couldn’t have asked for anything more than this feeling,” said Mrs Lynn Deas heaving a sigh of relief when the judge announced Antonius Maximus the winner.

The heart pounding didn’t stop there as Dashrath Singh lodged an objection that the winning jockey CS Jodha had whipped his hand during the gripping moments of the race. The stewards didn’t take too long to overrule the objection which in any case, lacked conviction.

Narendra Lagad’s Three Roses (Diffident – Striking Beauty) owned by his wife Begum Shaherbanoo Lagad, sprinted to victory giving a solid start to the followers of favourites. The well-backed filly ridden by Dashrath Singh waited in the fifth or sixth position as Showers of Heaven and Victorious Cause guided the field homewards.

Three Roses shot into the lead soon on turning for home and looked the winner long way from home. She finished on powerfully and won with complete authority. Storm Lightning fought her way up to snatch the runner-up slot from Victorious Cause.

For the professionals,  trainers Dallas Todywalla and Malesh Narredu saddled a double each, while jockey Dashrath Singh scored three winners and  snatched the lead for the jockeys' tally from Sandesh who was away at Hyderabad. Jockey CS Jodha too inched his way closer to the top jockeys, with a fine treble.