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By Mahendra Mallya | 29 Dec 2013 | MUMBAI

Mr Rakesh R Jhunjhunwala, Mr Berjis Minoo Desai & trainer P Shroff leading Master Shifu (Trevor Patel Up), winner of The A.C. Ardeshir Trophy (Gr.3)

The 10000-strong crowd that thronged the Mahalaxmi racecourse on Sunday had a healthy number representing the Parsi community. Over 1000 delegates from across the globe were present to witness the 10th World Zoroastrian Congress Race Day. The congregation is being held in Mumbai after 23 years and is sponsored by Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, who is also the Chairman of the 10th World Zoroastrian Congress. A large number of Parsis had come dressed in their traditional attire which lent a festive look to the racecourse.

A record eight races on the day had stake money of over a million and the well-filled card was evidence of the thick competition. The AC Ardeshir Trophy (Gr3) one of the feature races, brought the best out of Master Shifu (Mull of Kintyre – Stratospheric). The Shroff-trained bay gelding got into the lead early in the straight and romped home beating a good lot comprehensively.

Master Shifu settled right up, a couple of lengths behind Field Marshal who set a testing pace. The others followed in a bunch with An Acquired Taste and Toroloco opting to wait it out. Field Marshal entered the straight and soon jockey Trevor decided to ask Master Shifu to pick up the pace.  Master Shifu responded showing fine acceleration and easily went past the leader. Once in charge, Master Shifu galloped on, building up on the handy lead. While Field Marshal stuck on without increasing the pace, Supreme Star and An Acquired Taste were gathering momentum. Master Shifu was unmindful of the dual challenge as he never gave either a chance to get close to him. Master Shifu marched on ahead and spared two lengths to the runner up. Supreme Star made that grade nosing out An Acquired Taste at the wire. Field Marshal did well to stay in fourth as Toroloco, and the others finished in a head too close behind.

This was Master Shifu’s second win from 17 starts. He had last won in Pune in October 2012. After that Master Shifu had a checkered career and his best was his third to Super Storm in the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby this February. The closest he went to winning was in the Maharaja’s Cup where Ocean And Beyond spoiled his party, piping him on the post.

“I am not entirely surprised at Master Shifu’s winning performance today’” said Mr Berjis Desai, owner in partnership with Mr Jhunjhunwala, Mr Jaydev Mody and Ms Vandana Berjis Desai. “He has been quite consistent most of the time and his last start second to Jeremiah was not a bad effort at all. I did give him a decent chance as he was fit and was near the bottom of the scale. He galloped well in the straight and I am delighted.”

Pesi Shroff had earlier secured a resounding victory with his ward Adam (Multidimensional – Adesina) owned by Dr Vijay Mallya to claim the Villoo Poonawalla Foundation Million. For a debutante, Adam was simply too good. He faced a good lot of maiden three-year-olds and when they were sent off at the gates, Adam was not the quickest out and found himself at the back of the tightly packed field.

Neptune’s Ocean led them into the straight and a good clip but was soon passed by Tammy O. The others were closing in with Affirmation looking for a rail run. Presence, Trumps and Angel In The Sky were rubbing shoulders when Adam arrived with a singeing gallop to take them all down. He produced a rattling run to get past them and register a strong victory on debut. Affirmation lunged forward to take the runner-up berth with Angel In The Sky and Priceless Ace finishing together. Priceless Age was stuck on the rails in the last position turning into the straight and made commendable recovery to figure in the frame. Adam is top quality and one with a rosy future.

Dr MAM Ramaswamy’s Be Safe (Holy Roman Emperor – Oriental lady)won the Zoroastrian Multi-Million jockey Sreekanth literally snatching victory from defeat. The race came to a boil with a little over a furlong and half to go. Long time leader Purple Moonlight was fighting for survival with Shivalik Storm and War Commander trying to outdo one another. Zervan at this stage switched lanes to get Maisha going. Maisha looked impressive even as Shivalik Storm put his neck in front of War Commander. With just a 100 left to go, Be Safe who had traveled all over the place arrived with a devastating run to swoop upon the fighting trio and zip ahead to post a sensational victory, which only meters earlier seemed improbable. His final finish was sizzling and he shocked them all close home.

To The Manor Born suffered a shock-defeat at the hands of lesser fancied, but unbeaten after his debut run, Montreal (Phoenix Tower – Anmol) from Cooji Katrak’s yard. All looked well for To The Manor Born as she improved positions to strike it on straightening for home.

Honest Pleasure had come into the straight with a huge lead of over five lengths but failed to build on it. Neath was in chase but was not quickening either. To the Manor Born then started to devour ground at a brisk pace and cut down the lead piled by Honest Pleasure at a brisk pace. To the Manor born had barely taken charge when Montreal who had quietly slipped in behind the favourite, unleashed his final run. Amyn Merchant had gone all out after the classy filly and in the final 100 meters, managed to get the measure of the favourite. This was a fine performance from Montreal and Amyn Merchant played his part well to get Montreal going from the last position in the straight to peg back To the Manor Born in full flight and clinch the Gool & Soli Poonawalla Memorial Million.

Bangalore based trainer S Padmanabhan had Elite Model (Ace – Blue Ribbon) pitched in for the Darashaw Million. Jockey A Sandesh was unperturbed as he was stuck on the inner rails, a close last as they entered the homestretch. Knight of Ke easily shot past early leader Flying Eagle and was galloping well. Presidential rose to challenge the new leader. Sandesh produced Elite Model between them and made a strong final bid. Knight of Ke battled on while presidential remained a threat all through. The finish was heading to a nail-biting one and in a last ditch effort, Sandesh just managed to pip Knight of Ke and guide Elite Model to a thrilling victory. Presidential did well to take the third spot. Celtic King arrived far too late to end in the frame with The Big Bull breathing down his neck.

Heatwave (Glory of Dancer – Shockwave) gave jockey Ranjane plenty to celebrate and the lad was dramatic and animated in his fist shaking at the wire. Heatwave led them into the straight and had a handy lead passing the 400. Superlicious started to cover ground and get alongside the leader. The two fought hard and at one point it looked Suraj Narredu would get past Heatwave.  Favourite Aviator was badly poised in the early part of the race and had too much to do in the straight.

Heatwave fought on stubbornly even as Superlicious was threatening to pull away. Forest Vision was arriving with a late bid as he galloped past Grand Duke and Adams Spirit. However, Heatwave stayed ahead and Ranjane could not have started his triumphant antics earlier. They were still a couple of strides from pulling it off when Ranjane stood in the stirrups and began his winning gestures. It looked funny, but it could also embarrass him if he doesn’t take care. It’s best to do so once past the wire.

Patriotic (Royal Gladiator – Ashkirk) came up with long stretch run to topple First And Only One who looked good to pull it off yards from the winning post. First And Only One had galloped into the lead approaching the distance post and was accelerating well. Patriotic at that point was not sighted.  Jockey Sreekanth gradually started to get the Karthik trainee to gather momentum and in the final finish, Patriotic produced a fast run to get past First And Only One and pick up the Nanoli Stud Million.

Don Surti’s Nigella (China Visit – Supreme Discovery) produced a spirited run to shock favourite Zoltan in the dying moments of the race. Zoltan was fighting hard to wrest the lead from Osric. They were involved in a grim battle midway in the straight with Nigella lurking close behind. Just when Zoltan had got past Osric, Nigella started to bound ahead. She had enough power going to beat Zoltan close home and take the 10th World Zoroastrian Congress Trophy in style.

The last race of the day was claimed by Purple Patch (Alnasr Alwasheek – La Unique) in another thrilling finish, the first seven in fact finishing within about a length. Pretty in Patpong and Song of Africa were disputing the lead when a cavalry charge followed. It was raining horses in the final furlong as Purple Patch hit the front in the final stages with a dozen breathing down his neck. Apprentice jockey B Nikhil kept his nerves and steered the MK Jadhav ward to a scintillating victory. Brave Fighter came with a blaze but just could not reach in time. He did well to pip Zanthos for the second spot, ahead of Bella Figura.

For the professionals, trainer Pesi Shroff and jockeys Sreekanth and P Trevor scored a double each.