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By Mahendra Mallya | 24 Sep 2016 | PUNE

Desert God (A Sandesh Up), winner of the Gourmet Renaissance Indian St Leger (Gr1)

If you were at the picturesque Pune racecourse, you would have witnessed the making of history. Champion colt Desert God did not need to unleash all his resources to make his conquest at Pune while winning the Gourmet Renaissance Indian St Leger (Gr1). For the first 75% of the testing 2800m journey he ambled as though on his regular morning gait and then at the business end, he strolled home, yet prevailing by close to eight lengths on a canter! That is testimony of a truly great horse raising the dizzy heights few in the history of Indian racing have matched. Agreed, it is not fair to compare horses of different eras, but Desert God’s achievements and his manner of dominance, whether fighting off a stiff challenger or decimating the opposition, Desert God, one can’t deny, has himself earned the top billing among Indian thoroughbreds to have graced the Indian turf.   

Jigsaw stormed ahead to open up a huge lead soon on start and was a distance ahead all the way for the initial mile and quarter. Jockey Sandesh settled in second unperturbed by what seemed a massive leeway. Colombiana, the second favourite was off to a tardy start and was a distance behind Desert God, with the field well spread out.

Desert God was clinical in his approach as he cut down the lead and sailed smoothly ahead as they turned for home and that was it! Desert God was far too superior and the rest were only fighting for the minor placing. Colombiana galloped on to finish second. Jigsaw ended a surprising third and this was a fairly good effort considering he raced in the front right from the start.

This was Desert God’s 9th straight victory which included the two topmost races – The Indian Derby (Gr1) and the Indian Turf Invitation Cup (Gr1). Desert God’s gross earning is well over a whopping Rs Seven Crore making him the highest ever stake earner in the history of Indian racing.

The appreciative Pune crowd applauded Desert God and Sandesh as they walked the aisle to the winners’ enclosure. The RWITC acknowledged and honoured the outstanding achievements of Desert God and just before the presentation ceremony for the Indian St Leger, awarded a special trophy to owner, trainer and breeder of the great colt Mr S Padmanabhan, his wife and part owner Mrs Sharmila and co-owner Col Swapan Bhadra, bred by the Radiant Bloodstock Pvt Ltd, bred at the Kunigal Stud Farm. Mr Vivek Jain, Chairman RWITC, presented the award to the connections of Desert God.

“I feel blessed to have Desert God in my yard. He is a horse with a mind of his own. I think what makes him a champion is that he loves to gallop. He had come off a hard race at Hyderabad and then the travel to Pune. Honestly, i was contemplating if I should run him at all. However, when he reached Pune, trainer Subhag Singh, told me he looks fresh as new and showed no signs of fatigue whatsoever. He now has won a Group I race at every major centre in the country. We are mulling over the prospects of sending him to Dubai and that could be his future program,” said Mr Padmanabhan.

“Desert God is a great horse and i am fortunate to partner him, said jockey A Sandesh. It was with Mr Padmanabhan that I won my first Derby astride Borsolino and I am grateful to him for providing me the opportunity. Desert God is the best horse that I have ridden,” he concluded.

Sandesh had earlier ridden two winners ending the day with a fine treble. He guided Angel Girl (Ace – Fair Tactics, Poonawalla Stud) to a facile victory in the third race of the day. Sitting in fourth behind Way Ahead, Bullion Express and Jeena, Angel Girl pounced on the front runners soon on turning for home. Once in the lead, Angel Girl accelerated fluently to dart away from the rest and won unchallenged. Way Ahead ran a respectable second, while Blavatsky improved well to beat Jeena for place money.

Sandesh then piloted Artistic (Mull of Kintyre – Shanely, Sohna Stud) to a gritty start to finish victory. Artistic shot to the front and galloped at a steady pace to led them into the straight. She surged ahead and built up a handy lead even as Sparkling Eyes moved up to challenge. The pair fought hard but Artistic held his ground commendably. Anteros covered a lot of ground in the final furlong, but Artistic smothered his budding challenge to her second victory on the trot.

Jockey P Trevor scored a neat double in the day, the first of which came in the NIrmal Ruia Trophy astride second favourite Intelligence (Rip Van Winkle – Aurora Aurealis, Nanoli Stud). Trevor guided Intelligence into the lead soon on start and had Staristocrat close behind with favourite Bullrun on the rails. The rest were in a close huddle and close behind the front bunch.

Intelligence, on her first run this season, showed pleasing fluency in her finish as she gathered momentum and streaked ahead of the rest soon on turning for home. She galloped gamely to win with a good margin and this form should see her repeat in a similar bunch. Remember Me came from the rear to beat Staristocrat for the runner up berth. Bullrun disappointed and failed as a favourite yet again.    

Trevor later partnered Critics Choice (Tariq – Berkeley Lodge, Pratap Stud) to claim the Animal Welfare Board of India Trophy. Critics Choice raced about four off the fence all the way as Denny Crane set off at a nippy pace, with Merchantofvenice and Sydney Harbour close behind.

Denny Crane led them into the straight with Merchantofvenice breathing down his neck As these two were battling it out, Trevor produced Critics Choice from the outside and gobbled up the duo in front within strides. He stormed ahead in the final furlong to win pulling up. Critics Choice has had his issues and has been raced sparingly due to his fitness issues and trainer Hosidar Daji has done extremely well to nurse the filly efficiently and keeping her to her optimum fitness. This was her second win this season and her third on the trot after ending her Mumbai stint on a winning note. Denny Crane too ran a commendable race considering he was back on track after a lay-off.  

Temerity (Intense Focus – Narmina, Nanoli Stud) justified the cramped odds and won the Antonios Trophy with a good measure of comfort. Vision of Romance was out on a lung-opener and she streaked ahead to open up a big lead. Zanzibaar was in second with Temerity in third, well ahead of the rest.

Vision of Romance faded out soon and soon jockey Neeraj Rawal eased Temerity into the lead. Temerity was far too superior to her rivals as she marched on ahead to draw away from the field and win easing up. The Shroff trained filly had also won her last start in Mumbai impressively and certainly looks a candidate for the Indian Classics in Mumbai. Zanzibaar ended a far away second.

 Malesh Narredu trained Jordana (Dancing Forever – Serene Highness, Hazara Stud Farm) pulled off a easy start-to-finish victory with a strong performance over the mile and half trip in the day’s opener. Jockey Suraj Narredu had her in front and she stayed ahead all through. Olly Boy did try to throw in his challenge, but Jordana showed no signs of relenting and stayed the distance very well, winning by a commendable margin of three lengths.

Power Shadow (Noverre – Victoria Cannon, Sohna Stud) trained by Mansoor Shah pulled off a well-backed gamble with apprentice SA Amit in the saddle. Silk Baby brought them into the straight with Lucky Strike alongside, but they were soon challenged by Dancing Prince, who shot ahead past the distance post. Power Shadow was inching closer and Sensex too as coming into contention making his bid from the widest out.

With a 100 to go it was anybody’s race but Power Shadow produced that extra bit to surge ahead in the last few strides to clinch the issue in a three way finish, Sensex pegging back Dancing Prince for the runner up berth. Trainer Mansoor Shah yet again proved his craftiness at confidently nominating a winner in a tough bunch with confidence and with an apprentice in the saddle.

Eternalinspiration (Whatsthescript – Enaksi, Nanoli Stud) seemed to have sported a pair of wings in her final finish and flew towards the end to storm past the front runners in the final 100. Bulldozer got past joint leader Red Bug on entering the straight and built himself a handy lead. Never Say Never improved from third to tackle Bulldozer and surged ahead approaching the distance post. Favourite Sovereignsky got the rail run but could not quicken. Eternalinspiration was just warming up as was Apsaras on her outside. In the final dash for the wire, Eternalinspiration gathered speed and flew past the others to land the spoils with a comfortable margin. Never Say Never nosed ahead for the second slot with Simon Says and Sovereignsky ending in a dead-heat for the third place.

For the professionals, jockey A Sandesh scored a treble, while P Trevor secured a double.