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By Mahendra Mallya | 19 Oct 2013 | PUNE

Rodeo (C S Jodha Up), winner of The Suresh Mahindra Trophy

The Pune racecourse saw through two extremely busy days as the starter flagged off 20 races over two days. There were several exciting moments; however, the one that took one’s breath away was the 20th race, the Suresh Mahindra Trophy, run over the longest distance in the Indian racing calendar - 3200 meters. This highly trying race has seen some very exciting finishes in the past, but none as thrilling as the one that unfolded on Saturday.

Two equine brave-hearts, Rodeo and Native Knight displayed tremendous endurance. After travelling at a steady gallop over 2800 meters, both displayed fresh legs in their finishing effort. Okavango too looked capable of pulling it off when he led them into the straight. With a little more than a furlong to go, Okavango was putting in a good effort and he too didn’t seem to tire. It was Rodeo and Native Knight who gave off their best in the final furlong. Okavango did well to end just a couple of lengths behind the fighting duo.

Rodeo picked up momentum approaching the distance post and got passed Okavango. Native Knight was produced on the wider outside and he then began his attempt to chase down Rodeo. Jockey CS Jodha was at his fiery best going hell for leather to add the finishing touch to his long journey. Native Knight fought on brilliantly but fell short by the thinnest of margins, returning a gallant runner-up.

Rodeo (Home Affairs – Rainbow Vision), owned by Mr Geoffrey Nagpal and BR Mehra received an overwhelming welcome befitting a hero. Trainer Sanjay Kolse deserves high praise for keeping his charge to the level of fitness required to succeed over such a long trip. CS Jodha has been a revelation this season. He has been riding consistently well and he handled Rodeo with aplomb. P Trevor too was at his aggressive best. However, Rodeo was better off by 11.5 kilos, on that count Native Knight comes out sharing some glory with the winner.

Imtiaz Sait trained Hay Day (Mr Mellon – Almelo), owned by Mr & Mrs Mohan Thakur won the Pune Racing Journalists’ Trophy in a commanding fashion. He scored his second victory for the season and this was even more impressive than his maiden win in July. He settled into the third behind leader Magic Star and Allegiance, but made his move early to go into the lead at the turn.

Once in, jockey CS Jodha asked for an effort and Hay Day stormed ahead opening up a decisive lead and made it even more difficult for his rivals by keeping his acceleration going all the way. None from behind had any chance to clear the huge deficit they found themselves into. Hay Day looked the winner long way from home and completely outpaced his rivals.

Three juvenile debutantes, all of them prime favourites scored their first wins in contrasting styles. The first one on show was Dreams of You (Oasis Dream – Tartouche) taking on six rivals over a mile trip. Dreams of You from Pesi Shroff’s yard went into the lead at the final turn and built up a handy lead. She got past early leader Just By Chance with ease and bounded forward showing good acceleration. Durer moved to second approaching the distance post. Zervan seemed well in control of the race coming into the final furlong, and might have been a trifle relaxed in his finishing. Durer gathered momentum and started to bridge the gap rapidly. Fortunately for Dreams Of You, the winning post arrived at just the moment and she prevailed by a narrow margin. Zervan seemed confident that he had it covered, but Durer did pit in a scare for those who watched from the stands, the large supporters of the on-money favourite. 

Mohan Thakur’s Flying Eagle (Ace – Bold Bird) suffered no such apprehensions and waddled his way to victory in an impressive manner. The Dallas Todywalla ward jumped out smartly and took little time to go into the lead, passing First Glance on the way. He quickened well once they turned for home and worked up a winning lead in split seconds. Brazil moved into second spot early in the straight, but was in futile chase of the winner. Flying Eagle romped home with jockey Sandesh going hands and heels all the way to the winning post. Flying Eagle has shown good talent and will be a force to reckon with in Mumbai.

Jaydev Mody & DR Thacker owned Zeda (Phoenix Tower – Flyme To Themoon) open her account in style, although she had to ward off two challengers breathing down her neck. The Dallas Todywalla filly received solid support despite the pre-race speculation that Open Offer’s run-benefit may see him score his maiden win. In fact, Open Offer was the anti-post favourite.

Zeda was out quick and tagged along Say When and the pair headed the field right until the turn. Zeda left Say When behind and was going well and looking good. Open Offer was going all out, but not getting any closer to Zeda. Koalaa was the one who improved along the rails to run Zeda close. For a first run, Zeda did well. Koalaa too will come out with pluses. Open Offer disappointed as one expected him to fare much better.

Mr A Patel owned Advance To Contact (Burden of Proof – Agassiz) trained by SN Joshi, fired off a speedy performance to earn his maiden victory a lot more easily than expected in this wide open race that had no clear favourite. As they jumped out, All Star, the tote favourite rushed to grab the lead with Advance To Contact and Zaagros close behind. The rest of the field was more than three lengths away.

All Star entered the straight with Advance To Contact in chase. Soon jockey Nirmal Jodha got to work on Advance To Contact and the bay gelding responded with a blazing gallop to draw away from All Star. The pair jostled briefly midway in the straight, but in the final stages, Advance to Contact pulled away from All Star to score a convincing win. All Star ran a good second and should not be disappointed with this first outing. Giant Luck improved to run into the money.

In The Limelight (Emerald Cat – Sound of Silence) owned by Ms Rohina, Mr Rohan and Mrs Anjali Rodrigues, defied the penalty and yet again meant business when he hit the front to lead the field from the start. Samay Balwan set about in chase with favourite Awesome Smile in the mid-bunch and Lorelei choosing to wait it out.

In The Limelight pounded away as they entered the homestretch and kicked on powerfully under jockey CS Jodha’s guidance and stayed out of danger to win handsomely. This was the third victory this season  for the Sanjay Kolse trainee and Sanjay can feel proud for keeping the gelding in super fit condition right thorough the season. Lorelei warmed up far too late yet came from behind to beat the rest.

Nina Lalvani trained Pumba (Ikhtyar – Cape Africa) owned by Sudhir Ruia and partners showed immense staying abilities while cantering to a very easy victory. Pumba moved to the third spot at the turn and easily galloped past Amaya to get to one behind Cornelian. There was no contest whatsoever as Cornelian just couldn’t match the brilliance of Pumba who drew away providing jockey Amyn Merchant his first victorious ride for the season. Amyn Merchant had his share of fitness problems and this was only his third ride for the season.

HJ Antia’s Yardstick (Ontario – Backburn Rocket) who was made to hide his light under a bushel, chose this race to jump out smartly and take a substantial lead before the others could get into their strides. Wild Imagination sat in second with Oriental Magic and Rising Angel was thereabouts and Zoe the ultimate runner up not exactly in a prominent position.

Yardstick entered the straight with a handy lead and jockey Ishwar Perdeshi was hard at work to keep her going. With a furlong to go, Yardstick looked a clear winner, however, Zoe put in a tremendous run in the final 100 meters and was unlucky to see his large-hearted effort go down by a whisker.

Song of Africa who started favourite owing to her previous two runs, simply could not find her galloping shoes and ended in the ruck. Truth be said, horses in the lowest class are not to be trusted as their form is fickle and usually goes topsy-turvy. Punters would do well to stay away from these races for lowly rated horses.  

Altaf Hussain trained Arabian Lord (Storm Trooper – My Way) stormed his way to a scintillating victory snatching victory in the last couple of strides from Captain Smart who did nothing wrong. Captain Smart had a comfortable lead coming into the homestretch and he seemed to be going on well. Lucky Red and Arabian Lord warmed up in the final furlong and cut his lead at a brisk rate. IN the final fifty, Arabian Lord flew in with a flourish to shock Captain Smart and win the thriller. Lucky Red too did well to end a close third.

For the professionals, jockey CS Jodha certainly led the way riding out three winners. Trainers Dallas Todywalla and Sanjay Kolse saddled a double each while jockey A Sandesh scored a double as well.