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By Mahendra Mallya | 07 Sep 2014 | PUNE

Trainer P Shroff leading Acclaimed (S Zervan Up), winner of The Southern Command Gold Trophy (Gr.3)

The Southern Command race day at Pune was a truly exciting in every sense of the word. The sea of Army Greens is a sight to behold anywhere and if they display their combative rigors, it certainly takes the breath away.

The centre of the Pune racecourse was a stage set for showcasing the risk-laden encounters and skirmishes that the Indian Army confronts on dangerous missions. Aerial operations, para-gliders raids on terrorist hideouts and blasting out enemy targets et al was witnessed by the thousands live and by scores of others at off course centres and via live streaming  on, the Club’s official website. At the end of it all, it made one realize the risks our Armed Forces undertake daringly for the safety of our nation and citizens like you and me. The respect and gratitude for the Army personnel only multiplies when such demonstrations are witnessed at such close quarters! 

On the racing scene, it was master horseman Pesi Shroff who hogged the limelight with his trusted lieutenant jockey S Zervan playing an able ally. They combined not only to win the Southern Command Gold Trophy (Gr3) the main event, but also picked up three other races. Shorff made a clean sweep returning a remarkable ‘four-sent-four-conquered’ result.

He started off with a dramatic win with on money favourite El Camino (Rebuttal – Empress Jessie, Hazara Stud) in the day’s first race. Dramatic because El Camino suffered a sluggish start and the loud hush of despair rented the air as the commentator uttered “Missing the kick there is El Camino.”

El Camino was slow off but Zervan nurtured the gelding to improve positions briskly, making up lost ground in quick time. By the time they galloped past the 800, Zervan had got El Camino into the fifth spot, about five to six lengths from the leaders.

Out in front, Lucky Charm, Ashrafie and Laurus Pride were racing abreast with Brazil looking good in fourth. At the turn, Ashrafie went wide and took Laurus Pride out with her. Brazil shot through the gap thus created and easily went past Lucky Charm to take the lead. Rashun soon quickened to challenge the new leader. Meanwhile, Zervan started to improve and had El Camino gaining gradually on the two in front. El Camino warmed up nicely to come at the duo in front and caught up about 100 meters from home. From there on he sailed past Rashun and Brazil with ease to draw further away to score with a handy margin. El Camino finished in style and should score again. Rashun kicked on to beat Brazil for the runner up spot.

Illidan (Intense Focus – Edessya) bred by Highgroove Farm at the Nanoli Stud, had promised a good run during his last outing when he was badly off at the gates and yet managed to finish a good second. Well, he lived up to it alright.

Illidan jumped out smartly this time and was quick to lead the field of nine over the extended mile trip. Shivalik Showers kept in tow close behind and the two pulled away from the rest early in the race. They entered the straight well clear of Savage Beauty and Shivlaik Showers did mount a challenge in the early half of the straight. However, Illidan always held the upper hand and in the final furlong, strode out nicely to draw away. Shivalik Showers fought hard and in the dying moments managed to close in to reduce the margin restricting it to just over a length. Savage Beauty galloped at the same pace and stayed third all the way.

Knight of Ke (Noverre – Sweet Affair) bred by the Bhaktawar Stud at the Sohna Stud, was the Shroff-Zervan combine’s third for the day and they were not finished yet. Knight of Ke settle in second this time unlike his start to finish win last time. Myla Rose guided him until the turn with Zoraavar well ahead of Caesars Star.

On turning for home, Myla Rose was soon being urged hard to resist the advance of Knight of Ke, who was looming large on her outside. Within strides, Knight of Ke surged ahead and looked the winner long way from home. Zoraavar seemed listless and never made any bid whatsoever to end a tame third.

The icing on the cake for the Shorff camp came in the day’s biggest race, the Southern Command Gold Trophy (Gr3) when Acclaimed landed the spoils without causing much anxiety, although the verdict shows only half length, Acclaimed looked safely home with at least a hundred still to go.

They raced in a tight huddle for most of the mile journey the whole bunch spanning over no more than seven or eight lengths. Silver Streak cut the early pace, Acclaimed was in second with Supreme Star and Papakura tagging alongside. Clinton hugged the rails while Heatwave and Commander brought up the rear.

Acclaimed waited behind Silver Streak for a few strides on entering the straight and made a decisive forward surge with about 300 to go. Papakura, racing alongside Supreme Star was galloping on leaving no passage for Supreme Star to make his run. Clinton was progressing but the gap on the rails was too narrow for him to risk it through. When Acclaimed decided to take charge, he had a good momentum going and he soon darted to the front. He looked good coming into the final furlong and past the crowded Grand Stands, he was being hailed the winner. Clinton switched lanes and looked good in his finish, however, by then, Acclaimed had it well sewn up and Zervan gave the finishing touches to clinch the prestigious Southern Command Gold Trophy (Gr3) amidst generous applause.

Lt Gen Ashok Singh, GOC in Command HQ Southern Command did the presentation honours. The Southern Command presented a memento along with trophies to the owner, trainer and jockey and breeder of Acclaimed and cash awards to the grooms.

Acclaimed (Burden of Proof – Alnasreya) is owned by Dr Vijay Mallya, representing the United Racing & Bloodstock Breeders Ltd (URBB) and bred at the Kunigal Stud Farm. This was Acclaimed’s fourth successive victory starting from the Colts Championship at Hyderabad in September 2013 and his sixth career win from eight starts. 

During the presentation briefs, Mr Vivek Jain thanked the Lt Gen for making the Southern Command day a special one and for all the efforts that his personnel made to ensure a spectacular display, making the day a memorable one for the racing patrons. Lt Gen Ashok Singh in his speech assured the RWITC that the Army was happy to associate with the racing event and wished the Club and the sport of racing a flourishing future. 

Holy Bull (Papal Bull – Praise of Folly, Greenfield Farms) showed tremendous fighting spirit as he carved out a gritty start to finish victory. He had to fight hard and may have even surrendered his lead briefly to a determined effort from Top Commander. Top Commander joined Holy Bull at the turn and their battle began as early as then. The rest including favourite Athens were clearly beaten. Holy Bull on the rails encountered a serious challenge from Top Commander and the pair went hammer and tongs right from the mouth of the homestretch until the last stride. Jockey CS Jodha atop Holy Bull had to bring out all his experience and every ounce out of Holy Bull to thwart the lively challenge by Neeraj Rawal ridden Top Commander. They were inseparable passing the distance post, however, in the last few strides, CS Jodha managed to bring out that extra bit from Holy Bull and the courageous four year old managed to ward off the younger three year old challenger close home.

Antartica Zone (Ace – Dementieva) bred at the Poonawalla Stud Farm was another one who had to fight his way to keep his lead until the very end. He set off at a good clip and was galloping fluently in the able hands of jockey A Sandesh when Dashrath Singh produced Sombrero with a strong finishing effort. The duo battled hard all the way into the straight. In the end, Antartica Zone benefitted from Sandesh’s skills and good form to hold on to win by a narrow margin.  

The last race of the day saw the heavily backed Reality (Mull of Kintyre – Forgotten Dreams) bred by the Capricorn Stud Farm at the Pratap Stud, outpace her rivals and prove the one-sided betting trends right. The Narendra Lagad trained filly looked spot on in the paddock and she galloped fluently right from the start to lead the field as they turned for home.

Once they straightened up, Dashrath Singh waited slightly before giving Reality the go. She took off even as Miracle of Mercy tried to mount some challenge and she galloped furiously to steer clear of them all. Mountain Treasure kicked on to finish well enough to beat Miracle of Mercy for the runner-up slot.

The day certainly belonged to trainer Pesi Shroff and jockey S Zervan who returned with four winners each.