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By Mahendra Mallya | 06 Aug 2016 | PUNE

Trainer P Shroff leading The Champ (P S Chouhan Up), winner of The P Hadow Trophy

Speculations whether Saturday’s racing would be disrupted due to heavy rains almost throughout the week had punters and officials on tenterhooks until the final inspection of the track on the race day morning.  Fortunately, the monsoon track had stood up to the heavy lashing of the previous few days of persistent rains very well. With rain Gods taking an interval on the day, the action went off remarkably well and without hitch, despite a couple of spells of rain even during the ‘office hours’.

The P Hadow Trophy lived up to the promise of a sizzling finish with the here top fancies – Paramour, The Champ and Sydney Harbour hitting the wire in a thrilling three-way finish. While the first two named seemed to have the upper coming into the final furlong, The Champ (Kodiac – Mink Glove, Sohna Stud) had looked down for the count having fallen back at a crucial juncture. Jockey PS Chouhan’s relentless efforts and The Champ showing producing a big-hearted last ditch dash to the wire saw them pulling off a sensation victory literally on the last stride!

Sydney Harbour set off at a scorching pace with the Shroff trained The Champ on her tail. Paramour and Harvey followed less than two lengths behind. Bold Appeal was slowly off by long and was never in contention.

The fight for supremacy began at the turn itself as Paramour made an early move to challenge Sydney Harbour, Sandesh grabbing the run along the rails at the curve. On straightening up, Paramour was looming large even as Sydney Harbour held on stubbornly to the lead. The Champ was lagging by nearly two length and they had just hit the final furlong mark. Dashrath Singh atop Sydney Harbour was hard at work in keeping his filly going and thwarting Paramour’s strong bid. The Champ then produced a gallant gallop and with just about 100 m to go, started to close in on the fighting duo. The Champ could not have timed his finish better as he zipped alongside   and managed to nose the wire just in time to oust both in a dramatic finish.

B Fifty Two (Phoenix Tower – Baileys on Line, Manjri Stud) lived up to the top billing winning without causing any anxious moments. The shortest priced runner of the day opened at a miserly half-money, yet was backed further down to 4/10 at starting time.

Phenomenal Memory jumped out smartly and set a comfortable pace for the mile and quarter journey. Heather was pushed to take the second position. Jockey Sandesh had the Imtiaz Sait ward B Fifty Two ambling about four lengths behind with Rodeo a faraway last.

They raced in single file all through and entered the straight in the same order. Phenomenal Memory didn’t increase her speed, but neither did she drop the momentum. Heather was ridden hard and was making it a task in getting past the leader. B Fifty Two came alongside this pair and cruised past them and sailed away for a comfortable victory, without actually stepping on the pedal. He won with a lot in the tank and surely looks good for more. Heather finished on to take the runner-up spot and Phenomenal Memory did everything to ensure Heather earned that honour.

Among the first time runners, Greek Goddess (Canford Cliffs – Aristeia, Nanoli Stud) had a memorable first outing. She showed alarming maturity coming from the outer most draw to hit the front galloping fluently right from start. Aragon and Shaoquing followed the leader with My Blessings in fourth. The rest were never prominent.

Greek Goddess led them into the straight and soon unleashed her prowess bouncing away from the rest in a trice. Jockey Sandesh confidently relied on going hands and heels and scoring a facile debut win clean as a whistle. My Blessing improved in the straight to get past Shaoquing and Aragon to take the second spot.

Greek Goddess looks a good type and trainer Vishal Gaikwad had turned her up impressively as was evident from her manner of victory. She is sure to improve further and one in the reckoning for bigger assignments in future.

Zahrazan (Arazan – Zarandja, Villoo’s Greenfield Stud) trained by Dallas Todywalla and assigned to apprentice Vishal wore down runaway leader Don Corleone to carve out a fist won in class III. Having set off on a good start, Don Corleone kept the momentum going right through until the business end. Zahrazan was in chase all the time with Enthralling and Cannonball Run forming the front bunch.

Don Corleone accelerated well after leading them into the straight. Zahrazan then began to work her way closer and she really began to gain on the leader in the last 100 meters. Don Corleone looked good to last until the last couple of strides when Vishal and Zahrazan gave it her all to finish with a spark of brilliance. They just managed to peg back the Don to clinch a half-length verdict. Cannonball Run, the favourite, ended third ahead of Enthralling.

Faisal Abbas trained Niobrara (Arabian Gulf – Ekhabinsky, Manjri Stud) showed a clean pair of heels, pulling off a successful start to finish mission. Phoenix Knight hogged all he betting attention and the odds dwindled on him alarmingly down to even-money at race time.  

The favourite’s backers were in for a shock as Niobrara with apprentice G Amit in the saddle shot ahead at start and kicked on all the way to the winning post. Phoenix Knight was always in chase and until the turn was not too far behind. Niobrara upped the ante on straightening up and showed no signs of slowing down. Sandesh tried all he could with some aggressive riding, but Niobrara kept going at the same speed to ensure there was no last minute surprise, winning by over two lengths. Personify finished on with a minor flourish to end a noteworthy third beating Spear of Trium for place money. Over the longer trip, Personify bears watching.

Narendra Lagad trained Americaln Agatta (Royal Gladiator – Lamplight, Pratap Stud) booed home his run of the season advantage to score emphatically despite having to cover extra ground coming from the wider outside. Aliboxer retired after leading them into the straight giving way to Altus to take charge. Altus shaped up well but only until the final furlong mark. Way Ahead then came with a good run to get past Altus, but when American Agata arrived, it was all over. Jockey Bhawani Singh arrived with American Agatta galloping at to speed and got past Way Ahead with ease to pull off a handsome victory.

Nina Lalvani trained Simon Says asserted himself to score a fine victory in the day’s opening event. Simon Says (Ikhtyar – Venus Arising, Nanoli Stud) played the waiting game as he settled back along the rails in fifth, but not too far behind the front runners. Admission and Royal Eclair entered the straight together with favourite Alfonso and Zabrok close behind. Jockey NS Parmar got to action quickly and shifted out from the rails to produce Simon Says on the outside of the pair in front. Alfonso looked beat even before the race came to a boil. However, Simon Says seized the lead soon on turning for home and gained the early advantage in the homestretch. Zabrok then threw a serious challenge and came charging at Simon Says. They battled hard in the final 100 but Simon Says never looked in danger of fretting away his lead. He held on to win by just under one length.

C Rajendra trained Cavalia (Chevalier – Zarzuela, Ruia Stud) partnered by Dashrath Singh pulled off an upset win, never looking back or faltering after a quick start. Cavalia led all the way with on-money favourite Frosty in second. Once they turned for home, Cavalia galloped on relentlessly to dishearten Frosty who could not find the extra gear. Cavalia kicked on gamely to score her first win at Pune and the second of her career. Frosty will live to fight another day and this run should be discounted as she is yet to mature and will take this one as an educative run.

For the professionals, jockey Sandesh returned with a double on the day.