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By Mahendra Mallya | 17 Sep 2016 | PUNE

Dr Cyrus S Poonawalla & trainer Dallas Todywalla leading Lady Danehill (P S Chouhan Up), winner of The B K Lagad Memorial Gold Trophy Div-2

Followers of favourites took a severe beating as top fancies failed to oblige all through the day. The ominous signs for punters who wager on favourites showed in the day’s first race itself, when second-i- demand Sporting Spirit (West Virginia – Premier Perception, Nakul Stud) came tops in a raging battle to nudge out favourite Erdemir by a short-head.

Sporting Spirit showed good early speed as was heading the front bunch, while Erdemir raced in the fifth or sixth until the turn. Erdemir was very fortunate to get a nice opening and could not have asked for a better entry into the straight. Sporting Spirit continued his charge and kept Erdemir engaged al through. The pair fought hammer and tongs the entire stretch and extended the suspense all the way to the wire. Sporting Spirit showed good fighting qualities and jockey CS Jodha was in his elements in securing that narrow win. Erdemir has himself to blame as he failed to boot home the advantage of the rail run. His jockey Sunil had made an all out effort but simply could not sign off with an ideal finishing touch. However, the thrill of an engaging finish was worth the watch.

While Erdemir at least gave his supporters a lot to shout for and fought gallantly to the end, Allora, who had garnered strong support, fared below par and went down meekly. She was never prominent after she took a fly jump and over a scurry such a blemish is fatal.

On the contrary, Lady Danehill (Arazan – Miss Danehill, Villoo’s Greenfield Farm) made ample amends for her last start loss. She was out in a flash and darted into the lead. Abbey was quick too and sat alongside Lady Danehill. Kings Canyon was not exactly coming to grips wondering about, while Rock In Rio settled well in fourth.

Lady Danehill and Abbey then were engaged in a hard battle and were abreast going for the wire. Jockey PS Chouhan was forceful as was Suraj atop Abbey but in the end, Chouhan managed to extract t tad more out of the Dallas Todywalla trainee to clinch the issue on the wire, nosing out Abbey, Rock In Rio ended a notable third.

P S Chouhan’s was the only double for the day and his second win came aboard Trainer Rehanullah Khan’s charge Highland Breeze (Ace – Fervent Wish, Villoo’s Greenfield Farms). This too was not an easy race to win and Chouhan’s persistence coupled with Rehan’s training skills ensured that Highland Breeze made his mark on the Pune turf.

San Martino was in striking position just behind leader Sky Mine at the turn but did not quicken. Sky Mine took charge and sped further away and was shaping well. Highland Breeze started to warm up midway in the straight and picked up good speed to collar Sky Mine past the grand stands to win with a measure of comfort. Glorious Opinion improved well to finish third.     

Sanjay Kolse trained Don Corleone capitalized on his good form and added another start-to-finish victory this season. He darted out of the gates and took charge in a flash. Cannonball Run went in chase with Stardom Calling and Miss Arazan close behind.

Miss Arazan was fidgety in the gates and was temperamental. She shied away at a crucial juncture rounding he bend and simply ducked out of the contention finding herself in the last position, many lengths away. It was later learnt that she had bled. She will be packed off for the mandatory four weeks.

Don Corleone stepped up pace in the straight and neither Cannonball Run nor Stardom Calling could match his momentum. He skipped away in the hands of apprentice Akshay Gaikwad to score another thumping victory with more than two lengths to spare. Cannonball Run ran on to end second ahead of Sunny Sea.

Mariska proved another costly let down and this time she cannot complain of rough passage. Considering her ‘come from behind’ good second last time out over seven furlongs, it was surprising to see Mariska go for it from the start. She led hem all the way into the straight, but when push came to shove, she buckled under pressure when River Dance (Arazan – Mystic Dancer, Cyza Stud) arrived with a spirited gallop. Suraj Narredu atop River Dance came charging at Mariska and collared the favourite inside the final 100 and stretch away to post her maiden victory.

Vulcan (Sedgefield – Shining Force, Jai Govind Stud) also brought up his first win and in a fashionable manner at that! Available at nourishing odds as the business was majorly confined between Volantis and Tromborne.

Vulcan, with Kavraj Singh in the saddle, led them all the way into the straight and kicked on gamely to stay ahead all the way. Volantis gave a hard chase in the straight, but failed to catch the winner. The Adhirajsingh jodha ward stayed the distance commendably to win unchallenged.

The same camp could have pulled off a double but here, in the last race, Kavraj Singh was found wanting while partnering the well-supported Sporto. It was disaster from the start as Sporto veered after jumping out and was trialling from the outset.

Yellow Diamond seemed to have had it covered when he stormed ahead and built a handy lead approaching the distance post. Travieso gathered good momentum midway in the straight and started gaining on the leader. Sporto cause was further dampened when he took the turn wide. With Travieso (Rebuttal – Naughty Thoughts, Hazara Stud) striding spiritedly, Sporto too managed to get his act together somewhat and arrived with a serious challenge. While Yellow Diamond failed to sustain, Travieso galloped on determinedly to ward off Sporto to earn his maiden victory.

Kavraj then lodged an objection against the winner, but it was duly overruled.

Royal Eclair (Royal Gladiator – Eclair Blanche, Pratap Stud) finally got her winning bracket after a rather long wait, her 19th start to be precise. She was knocking on the door particularly this season and it was not surprising that she finally tasted victory. Her maiden win came about in a brilliant fashion though as she decimated the opposition by a whopping seven lengths making her the most facile winner of the day.

For the professionals, jockey PS Chouhan was the lone pro to notch up a double.