Favourites, Fashion Enthral Race-goers in Mumbai
Four first favourites obliged in a seven-race card on Christmas day at the Mumbai Races. The Day started well for the followers of money as Casual Look (Nirmal Jodha), the popular fancy, obliged without any fuss in the first race. Chasing Mirror Image (Shailesh Shinde) soon on start, Casual Look made steady progress past the 400-metre mark and got past Mirror Image comfortably to post an easy victory. Mirror Image was all out and held on to the second spot from Kai (CD Hayes) who was finishing on well to run a close third covering quite a bit of ground. The rest failed to impress, particularly Ekofisk, who did nothing of merit and fell into the ‘also ran’ category. Casual Look was impressive; Mirror Image and Kai are getting ready. In the second race, lot of money came on Virginia Woolf (I. Shiakh) who was backed down from higher odds to 4/1 at race time. Latest News (Nadeem Khan) went past Teaser (Harish) soon after the jump, and led the field home with Teaser in striking position. Flymetothestars was close behind and the rest followed with Virginia Woolf in the mid-bunch. Grey Storm (Shailesh Shinde) was towards the rear with Jolteon (R. Rupesh). As they entered the straight, Latest News kept going and Teaser began to improve. Trainer SN Joshi needs to be commended to have kept the 12 year-old Teaser in good shape and the gelding ran like a speedy youngster and won his second race this season. This was Joshi’s first of the two rank outsiders that he saddled on the day. Latest News was his consistent self and once again ran a good second while Flymetothestars worked hard to catch up but just could not manage. Jolteon was a close fourth and this effort was noteworthy. Grey Storm too needs watching. The MH Ahmedbhoy Trophy was won end to end by the favourite City Tamer (C. Rajendra). Setting a casual pace, City Tamer led the small field reduced to seven with the late withdrawal of Spiritual Flame, followed by Star Crusader (Srinath), Diplomatic License, Dominatrix (Grant), Miles And More, and Adrenaline Rush. Mothers Son lost a lot of ground at the start and took no active part in the race. Round the turn, City Tamer still held the advantage and as Star Crusader began to test the Shroff-schooled filly, Rajendra got her to accelerate and Star Crusader was in futile chase. Dominatrix posed pretence of a challenge and only managed to peg back Star Crusader for the second spot. Miles And More just could not find his feet and was a tame fourth. City Tamer won comfortably; Dominatrix finished on well. Pacemaker posted his second victory of the season in much the same fashion as he did the first. Leading soon on start, Pacemaker (Shailesh Shinde) easily opened up a sizable gap and looked a winner long way from home. Into the straight, pacemaker was all by himself and kicked on to win handsomely. The fight was on only for the minor places and Paris Hilton (Nadeem Alam) came from the mid-bunch to finish past Rising Warrior (Riyaz Shaikh) – the tote favourite. Return Of The King finished a decent fourth despite encountering traffic problems and not being in the best of positions. Pacemaker proved that he is a speedy type and a force to reckon with over five furlongs. Schnell (Tony Farina) was the only on-money favourite of the day and justifiably so, what with a comfortable last start victory. Jockey Farina ensured there was no hiccup and gave Schnell a clean-as-a-whistle ride to victory. Settled second soon on start, Schnell chased The Brave Heart till into the straight and passing 400, bounded forward and stretched the margin with every stride. Such was the authority with which Schnell claimed the P.D. Bolton Trophy, that there was no chance for any of the other contenders to pose even a semblance of a challenge. Schnell clocked an impressive 1 10.79 just 0.25 seconds off the course record. Among the beaten brigade, Oprah (Srinath) covered some serious ground to end a notable second pushing Native Royalty to the third. Wafadar (Grant) was all out and completed the frame. Eight 2 year-olds lined up to face the starter for The Stefan Hafner by Giantti Trophy – the feature of the day. Of these, only Crown Princess and Excellent Story had the experience of a race behind them. However, it was first timers Golden Sky (O'Donnoghue) and Nora (Farina) who were the premier choices in the betting. Excellent Story (Grant) was a notable second to Queen's Guest on her debut when she came from behind to challenge the winner and just lost by about half a length. So, when Excellent Story hit the front over this extended 7-furlong trip, it was a little surprising. Clarifying on the change of tactics, Trainer Dallas Todywalla said, “Considering that all the runners barring Crown Princess were first timers, I did not want to risk running her even in the mid-group. My filly had the experience and I instructed Grant to take the initiative early on and drive for home from the start. However, on hindsight, this was not exactly the wisest move and post race, Grant also expressed that it would have suited the filly better had she come from behind. Had we done so they 'Story' may have been different.” Golden Sky (Placerville–Maevella) settled in the mid-bunch as did Nora (Placerville–Free Radical). In the straight, Excellent Story had a useful lead past the 400, but as they neared the distance post, Golden Sky, close on the rails, began to warm up and joined the leader, Nora, who was pretty much at the wrong end and forced to take the turn wide, also began to cover ground. About 100 metres from home, Golden Sky got the measure of Excellent Story and held on grimly to a late burst from Nora. Nora will be a different proposition next time out, and Excellent Story should be given another chance. Urban Warrior (Srinath) and Sangoma (Rajendra) were supposedly the prime contenders, but trainer SN Joshi had another surprise saved for the last race of the day. Brezhnev (Anil Baandal) led the field all the way to the home stretch. Urban Warrior was racing in the rear bunch; Sangoma and Eternal Flight (PS Chouhan) were sixth and seventh. In the straight, Mubbaras (Merchant) was not allowed to lead for too long as Eternal Flight soon caught up and once the 8 year-old mare came to the fore she dictated the terms and won drawing away, particularly in the last 100 metres. Mubbaras was clearly overwhelmed and Urban Warrior charged in late to claim the place money a good 4 ¼ L behind. Sangoma and Alexa followed them home. The Gitanjali Group displayed their attractive precious stones ornaments displayed by a glamorous group of models. The fashion show was held in the paddock soon after the Stefan Hafner by Giantti Trophy. The racing patrons were enthralled by the glamour and glitter particularly since the public choice Golden Sky sparkled on the race track moments earlier.