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By Mahendra Mallya | 13 Aug 2017 | PUNE

Trainer M Narredu leading Colombiana (A Imran Khan Up), winner of The Eve Champion Trophy (Gr.3)

The combat demonstration put up by the Southern Command personnel left the racing fraternity ‘shell-shocked.'The skill and precision with which the Indian Army strikes and carries out perilous raids on hostiles was a mind-boggling experience that gave a candid insight on the dedication and fearlessness of our brave soldiers on the extremely volatile battle grounds. A series of dramatic turn of events at the center of the Pune racecourse were high voltage with top notch sniffer dogs showing alacrity in the keeping the vigil and on slightest of suspicious movement rushing to attack and down the intruder had one in awe. Strategies and implementation with intelligence inputs and quick action commando teams being air dropped to quell the threat, destroy the enemy bunkers and neutralize the enemy took one’s breath away. Overall the scene crated and put forth by the forces left one realizing the efficiency to deal with any situation and the sacrifices of the men in uniform enhanced the respect, admiration and gratitude one felt towards the Indian Armed Forces. Every single soldier is a hero one realized!

Moving to the racing action, jockey A Imran Khan turned in some heroic performances scoring a dramatic run of victories ending up with four winners – cleaning up 50% of the day’s card and sort of 100% on his personal riding engagements, winning 4 of his six mounts and placing in the two others. Imran started off on a roll, dishing out a hat-trick with his first three assignments.

Colombiana (Noverre – Wonder Smile, Sohna Stud) was well-supported and 18/10 and got further backed down to 5/4 at race time. Winter Renaissance shot out of the gates and Colombiana too did not falter at the start has before. Trainer Malesh Narredu seemed to have corrected his bad habit and the crowd too heaved a sigh of relief seeing his off with the rest. Colombiana however, tailed the field ll the way until the turn, Imran even handing a wake-up crack as early as at about 600 m mark.

The field was closely huddled at the turn as Winter Renaissance had Escala closing in on her. Jack Frost urged to make an early run joined the two in front when Colombiana propelled by Imran Khan unleashed a powerful forward surge. He sailed ahead with ease and stretched away nicely to sew up the issue in the final furlong. Germanicus did not get the clearest of runs and the want for passage at a crucial juncture reduced his chances of giving a tougher challenge to the winner. Germanicus came with a speedy finish to end a good second.

Nelsons Blood and Timeless were the joint favourites to win the Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw Memorial Trophy and at the turn both were abreast, heading what appeared to be a thrilling finish. However, that was not to be as Timeless showed tremendous improvement and shot ahead with telling strides to leave the field cold and runaway to score an impressive win without requiring to fire on all cylinders. He won easing up sparing more than three lengths to score in an emphatic manner. Glorious Eyes finished on to take the runner-up berth from Nelsons Blood. In My Way made no impact and ran below par.

Forest Fairy (Arazan – Forest Fantasy, Poonawalla Stud) the shortest priced favourite for the day (10/6 on) won readily causing no anxiety to her supporters. Victoriana called the shots from early on with My Precious and Ice Dancer in chase, Forest Fairy made steady progress to be well in touch with the front bunch and improved further after the turn to be one behind the leader. Victoriana tried hard to stay in contention but once Forest Fairy drew abreast, there was little she could do to stop the raging favourite. Forest Fairy bounded forward to seize the initiative and then romp home in style to shed her maiden status in a dominating manner and providing Imran Khan an inspiring three-in-a-row. Ice Dancer gained ground enough to peg back Victoriana for the second spot.

Imran Khan then added yet another victory in the last race of the day astride Shogun (Phoenix Tower – Sexy Eyes, Manjri Stud) with some aggressive riding and doing well to take off from the outside draw(14) to nullify the lane disadvantage for the scurry.

Furiosa and Princess P were tussling for the lead with Gran Paradiso and Democrat close behind, Shogun didn’t take too long to be in touch with the front bunch and improving position around the turn. Princess P took charge coming into the straight  but was not exactly galloping fluently. He was clearly under pressure and not keeping a straight course. Gran Paradiso was about to unleash his run when Shogun arrived with a good gallop. There was a slight jostle near the distance post and Gran Paradiso was worst affected finding himself squeezed between Princess P and Shogun. Sandesh had to check his mount and easily lost a couple of strides. Shogun pulled away from the duo sparking off a good momentum and scored his win with a decent margin. Gran Paradiso recovered well and gained ground enough to pip Princess P to finish second.

Abbey (Phoenix Tower – Attune, Manjri Stud) had to dig deep to sustain her start to finish essay and hold on to score a sensational four-in-a-row after a sizzling run of three consecutive victories in Mumbai. She didn’t exactly tear away to the front and had Artistic and Undisputed close behind. Governor General after a quick start lost positions but surfaced well on turning for home.

Abbey got going in the straight with both Undisputed and Governor General looking live threats all along. The battle got closer in the final furlong and jockey CS Jodha provided able support in the saddle to see Abbey through in a three-way close finish.

Walk On By (Varenar – Eubee, Equus Stud) proved a smart coup for the Hosidar Daji camp. With the focus in the ring primarily on Ame, Crystal Ball and Speedo ensured Walk on By of nourishing returns in the betting ring.  

Coming well off the outside draw (15) apprentice jockey K Nazil did well in the first half of the race to be amongst the first five at the turn. He did even better in the straight as he got Walk On By from the outside even as Speedo and Ame were going at one another. Crystal Ball and Juliano too were right in the contention when Nazil brought Walk On By into the picture. The chestnut filly responded with timely acceleration to get past them all and score a laudable win. Speedo ended a good second and Crystal Ball managed to pip Ame for place money. Alyaties ended one off the frame and may have needed this run.

Roosevelt (Power – Sinetta, Nanoli Stud) won handsomely although Goldie’s Pet made him fight for his maiden win. Goldie’s Pet raced into the lead and when Roosevelt began to chase her down the question was whether she could ward off Roosevelt giving that chunk of weight. She fought on bravely but it was too much of a task to hold Roosevelt at bay with the reversal at the scales being so vast. The inevitable happened a couple of strides from the winning post when Roosevelt started to accelerate and he zipped past Goldie’s Pet to notch up his memorable first win. Powerhaus was well clear of the rest while finishing a tame third.

Nightfall (Strategic Prince – Onlybythenight, Vikram Greenlands Stud) was the rank outsider to win on the day. Coming into this race without ever placing in any of his 10 previous starts, Nightfall was completely neglected as a threat. He had the last laugh though as he brought forth the folklore that professes that the game is one of uncertainties. He was up in front at the turn with a bunch of horses on his heels. Jockey Altaf Sayyed used the whip freely to keep Nightfall going. The more fancied stable-mate Sweep Aside started to challenge Nightfall with Happy Birthday close behind them. Koal warmed up but was far too late having to do too much at the business end. He finished on fastest but failed to nail the winner.

For the professionals, jockey A Imran Khan was the star pro of the day with a haul of four wins.