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By Mahendra Mallya | 28 Jul 2016 | PUNE

Mr Vijay B. Shirke and K. N. Dhunjibhoy leading Kandinsky (PS Chouhan Up), winner of The Dr S R Captain Trophy

A sizable crowd thronged the Pune racecourse on the opening day and were treated to some lively racing action. The bookmakers enjoyed the upper hand in the early half of the nine-race card, but most ofthe punters would have clawed their way back with fancied horses, at some at nourishing odds, obliged  later in the day to make it even-Stevens between the old foes.

The father-son duo of Malesh and Yash Narredu enjoyed high success taking off from the season’s first race. While the senior Narredu returned with four winners on the day, Yash showed splendid form to bag a fine treble.

The DR SR Captain Trophy lived up to the promise of a keen finish with both Airco and Kandinsky enjoying equal support in the ring. Both were joint favourites quoted at 5/2 apiece. The pair fought out through the homestretch with Kandinsky this time holding on grimly to ward off Airco by a narrow margin.

Toofan showed good early speed to lead the field of five right through from the start and was the first one into the straight. Kandinsky (Dutch Art – Katavi, Nanoli Stud) made his move at the right juncture with jockey PS Chouhan getting the Vishal Gaikwad ward to top speed. Airco appeared on the scene with about 300 to go and started to inch closer to Kandinsky. Chouhan rode out strongly even as Airco got closer with each stride. Unlike their last encounter, Kandinsky this time sealed the issue with a determined bid to hold on by ¾ lengths.  Airco fought it out and ended a close second. Few Dollars More covered some ground to finish a noteworthy third.

Silken Eyes (Multidimensional – Silken Star, Usha Stud) came good in her first start in Pune to win the An Acquired Taste Trophy for maiden three-year-olds, in style.  Cigarello shot into the lead but petered out past the half way stage. Volantis never looked in the hunt as she hung out and also went wide in the straight.

Book Thief flattered to deceive as she made smooth progress to lead the field turning for home, but failed to drive home that advantage. Star Comrade was the first to challenge and overhaul Book Thief but soon Silken Eyes, ridden by Sandesh slipped through the inner railings and shot ahead. Once in the lead, Silken Eyes got even better and accelerated well to go clear in the final 100 meters and notch up a handsome victory.

The season began on an auspicious note for the Narredus with a win in the first race. Malesh Narredu trained Jordana (Dancing Forever – Serene Highness, Hazara Sud) with young Yash on board sailed away to an impressive start to finish victory.  

Taking a nice swift jump Yash got Jordana into the lead with Jacknife galloping along on the outside. Simona followed these two with the favourite Merebella in the mid-pack. Jordana pulled away from Jacknife at the turn and then unleashed a game gallop to storm well ahead. Taking no chances, Yash rode hard and even cracked the whip a couple of times although he was in no danger as early as just-into-the-straight. Jordana kept increasing the lead and won by a widening margin to score her maiden victory in her 12th start. Merebella was way too far behind to offer even a semblance of a fight. Jacknife did well to stay on to claim the place money ahead of Glorious Hymn.

Malesh struck again in the 7th race of the day with favourite Shield of Achilles (Arazan – Saffron Dancer, Poonawalla Astonish Stud) scoring a resounding win. Going at a good clip right from start, Shield of Achilles was joined by Saffire Song at the turn. Kingston Heath and Airlift too were lurking close behind. However, Shield of Achilles showed a good turn of foot and strode away once they entered the straight. Jockey Suraj Narredu guided the speedy gelding to a runaway victory looking the winner with a furlong more to go. Queen Credible tried to offer a fight, but found the winner too good. Airlift made no impact, ending a tame third.

Malesh then won the next two races on the trot compiling a fine hat-trick, winning the last three races of the day. Shivalik Shine (Rebuttal – Sweeping Story, Hazara Stud) took a good jump and Yash steered her astutely from draw 13 to sit just behind leader Dragon of War. Dazzling Dancer was up next with favourite Flamboyant Flame well in touch with the leaders.

Dragon of War fought hard to stay in the lead with Shivalik Shine breathing down her neck. Dazzling Dancer was prominent along the rails while Flamboyant Flame was appearing to shift gears. All of their efforts came a cropper as Shivalik Shine put in a fine finishing gallop as she took charge inside the final furlong and sped away to earn her first winning bracket without fuss. Dragon of War held on to take the next best spot while Dazzling Dancer ended a fair third ahead of Flamboyant Flame.

Young Yash then rode his best for the day in the concluding event partnering Silver Beauty (Aussie Rules – Maharanee, Exhilaration Stud) to a well-crafted win. It was no mean ask for Yash as he found himself behind horses and Yash had the presence of mind to wait patiently until he got the opening to push through.

Fringe Benefit had just taken over from early leader Jeena coming into the straight with Pink Panther warming up to make his bid. Jazzmyn joined the duo in front and galloped past Silver Beauty closing the passage for the latter to move out of traffic. Fringe Benefit failed to sustain and just as Pink Panther and Jazzmyn were heading for a showdown, Silver Beauty shifted lanes with under 100 m to go. The M Narredu trained filly produced a short but effective burst to collar the fighting duo meters from the winning post and pulled off a fairly easy win in the end. Pink Panther nosed out Jazzmyn for the runner-up berth.

Earlier in the day,  Charging Tigress (Sedgefield – Great Colours, Jai Govind Stud) put in a late dash to pip Abbey on the post. Lady Danehill got the start she would have liked, but at the business end she simply pertered out despite Sandesh’s best efforts. Abbey and Lady Danehill were the joint leaders turning for home, but then Abbey pulled away and Lady Danehill looked beat that very moment. Charging Tigress with apprentice Prabat Singh had improved to third and the Tigress picked up momentum in the final furlong. Abbey looked comfortably in front until that point but when Charging Tigress started to gain rapidly it looked curtains for Abbey’s good effort. Sure enough Charging Tigress pegged back Abbey to win by a head. Lady Danehill saved he place money while Slam Dunk ended a fair fourth.

Fearless Nadia (Oath – X Factor, Pratap Stud) pulled off a sensational start to finish victory keeping the strongly finishing Magnolia at bay, but only just. Getting off to a good start, jockey Dashrath Singh kept the Waheed-trained Fearless Nadia well in front with Magnolia in chase as they turned for home. Dashrath Singh kept the pressure on and Fearless Nadia kicked on gamely leaving it to Magnolia to do the chasing down. With Fearless Nadia showing no signs of relenting, Magnolia made a last ditch effort, closing in on the leader. However, Fearless Nadia had the momentum going and zipped past the winning post beating Magnolia by a neck!

Swaraj (West Virginia – Blue Fin, Nakul Stud) tasted his first success and it took 14 starts to achieve the goal. Jockey Neeraj Rawal was alert at the start and was skilful in guiding Swaraj to the third spot from draw 21 just behind leaders Zion and Generous Lady. Swaraj looked all set to grab the chance when Neeraj set him off to unleash his run soon on turning for home. The Sunderji trained gelding responded with a speedy gallop and was soon out of bound for the rest within split seconds. Wonder Story improved and worked up a good gallop too, but by then Swaraj was way ahead to catch up with. Swaraj won well while Wonder Story finished a fairly good second. Zion was rewarded with the place stakes for his decent effort. Favourite Secret Oath made little impact while ending a tame fourth.

For the professionals, trained Malesh Narredu had a rocking start saddling four winners, while jockey Yash Narredu partnered his dad on three of those winners.