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By Mahendra Mallya | 15 Aug 2017 | PUNE

Mr Adar C. Poonawalla & trainer M Narredu leading Unforgettable You (P Trevor Up), winner of The PRA Independence Million

The prestigious PRA Independence Million had and big field going to post with Unforgettable You installed the tote favourite despite returning to the race track after a gap of about 300 days and carrying the top weight! She had had a benefit of a mock race at the end of July, finishing second to stable mate Volantis and she had also logged in a fair amount of track work as her preparation for the big race. Trainer Malesh Narredu had fine-tuned the filly owned by the Poonawallas and she looked the part in the paddock.

It was not all smooth sailing though on the race track as Trevor on board Unforgettable You (Arazan – Change of Luck, Villoo’s Greenfield Stud) was not in a prominent position at any stage for most part of the 2000m long journey. He had to make his run along the wider out most of the way but recovered well to be in striking position at the final turn.

June came into the straight with a handy lead with Carnival moving in to challenge. Trevor produced Unforgettable You from the outside to inch closer to the fighting duo. June galloped all out but simply could not sustain as Carnival got the measure of the early leader. Unforgettable You then unleashed a powerful burst to tackle Carnival in front of the stands and then shifted gears to speed away and win with authority, showcasing her staying prowess in no small measure. What made the victory even sweeter was the fact that Unforgettable You was giving a huge chunk of weight, yet she won with something to spare.

Trainer Narendra Lagad had a splendid day at the office returning with a fine treble including a record-breaking run by his ward Wild Fire (Varenar – Generous Grey, Equus Stud). Wild Fire shot out of the gates and then bolted away from them showing awesome speed while opening up a huge gap between herself and her rivals. She never shortened her strides and won without giving the rest even a semblance of a chance. She outpaced them all, staying in command from the gate to the post, nosing the wire in 57:596 seconds, thereby eclipsing the course record of 57:86 set by Polished Chrome (2015).

Lagad had earlier saddled Loire (Surfrider – Leit Motif, Ruia Stud) to an impressive win beating top fancy Stunner with ease. Stunner, the even-money favourite, showed good early speed leading the field into the straight. As the race came to a boil, Loire, who was always in chase of Stunner, crept up alongside and quickened at the right time to zip ahead past the distance post and log her maiden win in style. Jockey Dashrath Singh did all the things right and won with a measure of comfort.

Lagad led-in his third winner in the concluding race with Rich N Rare (Chevalier – Overrule, Ruia Stud) with apprentice jockey Kuldeep on board certainly showing that he is adapting well. Rich N Rare did not exactly get off quickly enough as the field of 16 darted out of the gates. Country’s Empress, Devoted, Replica and Priceless Girl formed the front bunch with Reality and Super Icon close behind. Rich N Rare moved up on the outside gradually improving positions, staying out of the traffic and taking the turn wide.

Replica took charge briefly before Super Icon got past and Rich N Rare arriving with a good turn of foot. It was smooth sailing for Rich N Rare past the distance post and she stretched away nicely to compile a stylish maiden win. Super Icon caught one better in the winner. Priceless Girl kicked on to snatch the place money warding off Asahi and a bunch of horses in the process.

Malesh Narredu trained Sweet Music (Dean’s Kitten – Zahwah, Sohna Stud) booted home the run advantage and galloped on all the way persistently to ward off a stiff challenge from hot favourite Rochester. Fortitude, Sweet Music and Rochester were rubbing shoulders as they entered the straight and soon Sweet Music got going to take charge. Fortitude fell back while Rochester started to challenge Sweet Music. This pair fought out the final furlong with jockey P Trevor atop Sweet Music going all out to keep Rochester at bay. Rochester kept the pressure on threatening to snatch the lead with every stride, however, Sweet Music sustained until the end to escape to victory by a short-head. Fortitude ended a decent third although three lengths away and is bound to improve with the run.

Exodus (Arazan – Strawberry Fields, Poonawalla Stud) added to his back-to-back Mumbai double with a superlative effort to clinch the race in an exciting three-way finish. Going for it from the start, Exodus with PS Chouhan on board dictated his own pace and led them into the straight with a handy lead. Chouhan had him off the cruise mode and got him going soon on straightening up. Raees set about in chase but was not finding that extra gear to trouble Exodus. Palatial veered a bit under pressure but got past Raees to post his challenge.  Mekong Delta, who was slow off the block got going in the final furlong and arrived with a blinding run in the closing stages. However, Exodus had just about enough fire-power to hold both the challengers at bay and clinch a thrilling victory by the narrowest of margins from Mekong Delta, who was half a stride too late and did well to pip Palatial for the runner up berth in this breathtaking finish.

Pesi Shroff’s Yanna Rascala (Alfred Nobel – Lunar Love, Sohna Stud) showed that he had retained his Mumbai form and surfaced from the rear and galloped to glory in front of the stands. It looked an interesting race as Stardom Calling and Sparkling Eyes jointly led them homewards. Stardom Calling galloped on as Sparkling Eyes failed to keep up. Maduro put in a lively gallop and was shaping well, favourite Odessa found the penalty too much to defy and failed to make an impact. Grey Flannel improved between horses when Yanna Rascala arrived with a cracking run past the distance post. Jockey Sandesh had set his mount of fire and Yanna Rascala blew his opponents away with a fiery finish to win with a lot to spare. Maduro ended a good second. Stardom Calling showed his old spark and did commendably well to take the place money ahead of Grey Flannel.

Shahzaan Shah’s ward Auroden (Mull of Kintyre – Ashka, Sohna Stud) came good to register his maiden success displaying his fighting qualities in downing a persistent rival in Sir Desmond. They set off to a good start and Sir Desmond was out in front with Bullion Express improving to be in touch with the leader. Timeless Deeds was next with Auroden sticking to the rails as they turned for home.

Sir Desmond kicked on gamely stretching clear of Timeless Deeds. Auroden slipped through the rails but jockey Neeraj Rawal had to contend with Auroden shifting his head outward when asked to get on to challenge the leader. Neeraj did well to have Auroden on even keel with some distance left to mount his final assault. Once corrected, Auroden flew towards the finish to beat Sir Desmond a stride or two from the winning post. Sir Desmond ended a good second while Backstreet Bay finished on well to push past Timeless Deeds for the third.

For the professionals, trainer Narendra Lagad saddle a treble, Malesh Narredu a double. Jockeys P Trevor and Dashrath Singh scored a double each.