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By Mahendra Mallya | 17 Sep 2017 | PUNE

Pure Zinc (A Imran Khan Up), winner of The S A Poonawalla Million (Gr.3)

The SA Poonawalla Million day had a sizable turnout and the anticipation and excitement in the crowd was evident. The rush to place the ‘Contest of skill’ forms at the designated desks was heavily right up to the minute. Thousands of participants waited patiently for their nominated horses to gallop past the winning post in the order that they had predicted. As the gates opened at the far end of the track, vocal chords in the Grand Stands and the lawns opened hoarsely too. The thudding of the hearts outpaced those of hooves for a change. After all, there was that Datsun car and a couple of other prizes up for grabs for the toil of a one-minute scribble on the prescribed form!

The least experienced colt with a debut victory under his belt made a bold dash for the lead within a furlong of the start and galloped at a good pace. Pure Zinc was hard held in second, favourite Selfie Star was next with Summer Rays and Carpisca racing together in the rear.

Bateleur churned out his best, but Pure Zinc (Sedgefield – Skipperess, Jai Govind Stud) soon pounced on him and shot ahead. Jockey Imran Khan stepped on the throttle and the Adhirajsingh Jodha trained colt pulled away from Bateleur in a trice. Pure Zinc showed immense talent in speed and stamina and sped past the winning post like a little champ.  Bateleur finished a gallant second warding off Selfie Star to take the runner-up slot.

Trainer Adhirajsingh was mighty pleased with his ward’s showing. “Pretty proud of Pure Zinc, the poor chap had suffered from severe colic just months ago. That took a lot out of him and I had to nurse him back to fitness. Just when he made good recovery he was down with colic again. This time he recovered faster and after months of just trotting around, he did some pace work on the track. Two mock races and he showed he was race-ready. I would have liked a prep for him, however thought it better that the mock should bring him on. I was confident he would give a good account of himself even though it was a big race he was turning out for his first run in Pune against some of the top three-year-olds. I am pleased with his performance and hopefully he will keep the winning momentum going in the Pune Derby as well. I am confident that he will stay the trip and i have figured out his work plans to get him to his best for the Derby,” said Adhiraj.

Gallant Knight (Arazan – Star Angel, Poonawalla Stud) kept his date with victory with a strong finish to claim the Villoo C Poonawalla Million. Finding himself in the fourth spot until the turn, Gallant Knight moved up from the outside to be in striking position on straightening up for home.

Victoriana had led all the way and was going fairly well in the homestretch. Neither Take Five nor Collegium was making an impact on the leader. Gallant Knight started catching up with the leader at the distance post and in the final furlong, jockey A Sandesh applied full throttle to have Gallant Knight sail past Victoriana and post his maiden victory in style. Victoriana fought all the way, but just failed to sustain.

Jockey Dashrath Singh is on song! He followed his fine showing on Saturday with another treble on Sunday. He started off with a hard fought victory winning the day’s opener by the proverbial whisker and boy did he have work to do atop the winner - Harmony (Royal Gladiator – Count the Stars, Equus Stud).  

Jeena had led them into the straight and soon Royal Eclair arrived with a powerful run. The six year old mare burst into the lead and shaped well looking good to win approaching the distance post. Harmony was third by then, but still some distance away. Dashrath Singh rode in a workman-like manner and started to close in inch-by-inch. With less than a furlong to go, Royal Eclair was still over two lengths ahead and galloping. Dashrath Singh rode out relentlessly and Harmony gave it everything. The supporters for favourite Harmony were at the edge of their seats as Harmony made a last ditch effort and managed to pip Royal Eclair on the post, sending her large number of backers into ecstatic delight, winning by the shortest of margins.

Dashrath Singh then partnered Swiftness (Sedgefield – Ballade Denon, Jai Govind Stud) from the MP Jodha stables. Going over the 2400 m trip for the first time, Swiftness, fancied on her last start second, shot into the lead and galloped at a good clip. On-money favourite Carnival set about in chase of the leader with the rest following in a line. Swiftness enjoyed a handy lead all the way into the straight. By then Carnival and Lady Be Good had closed in on the leader, but there was a lot more to come from Swiftness.

It is not the easiest of things to win start to finish over the longish trip, but Swiftness did just that. Once in the straight, Swiftness displayed loads of stamina and kicked on gamely. Carnival just could not match up Swiftness and ended second without offering any challenge.

With two-in-two Dashrath Singh had his tail up and got a leg-up from trainer Narendra Lagad atop God’s Own, the bay filly also looking for her third successive win. Dashrath got the filly going from the word ‘go’ and kept the momentum going all the way home. Allora tried her best to tackle God’s Own; however, all she could do was cut down the margin of victory. Allora did offer a fight even coming alongside God’s Own meters from the winning post, however, God’s Own was rolling on and managed to hold off Allora by a long neck.

Uncle Scrooge (Authorized – Yesteryear, Nanoli Stud) put in a scorching stretch-run to score a bullish victory, finding his touch back after a longish lull period. He was pitched in longer distance races but after a suggestive run over seven furlongs last time out, he was again given a chance over the same trip. Uncle Scrooge reposed the faith put in him by his connections responding with a cracking run.

Judicious progressed steadily to lead the field with Altus alongside and Streetjammer in third close at the turn. There was a bunch of horses taking the turn and Uncle Scrooge made his run from the wider out. Judicious looked in trouble as Sensex started to tackle him. Hedwig too was closing in while Streetjammer was not finding much. Uncle Scrooge with Sandesh in the saddle put in a sustained gallop and outclassed the field with his power-packed finish. None had an answer to the turn of foot that Uncle Scrooge unleashed and the MK Jadhav ward strode away majestically to win the Rao Saheb Kedari Gold Trophy in a scintillating manner.     

Veteran trainer SS Shah saddled Lady Sergeant (Phoenix Tower – Autocop, Manjri Stud) put in a spirited run in the final furlong to score a stylish win at nourishing odds. The field was clustered as they turned for home with Powerhaus at the helm and Lady Sergeant poised for the kill. Powerhaus fought on but when lady Sergeant drew abreast, she could not sustain to match the dazzle that lady Sergeant displayed. Jockey Imran Khan urged the filly on and Lady Sergeant had sewn it up long way from the winning post.

My Blessings (Sedgefield – Feona, Jai Govind Stud) was confidently backed and the in-form filly justified the favouritism obliging her many followers.

My Blessing always kept in touch with the front-runners Silk Baby and Rock in Rio. Queen Ria and Philadelphia were both on the tail of the pair in front.

My Blessings, with jockey DS Daman in the saddle, lit up midway in the straight and had no difficulty in speeding past horses in front. She soon took charge in the final furlong and stretched away from them all to win the concluding race of the day and bringing about a third win on the day for the Jodha father-son combination. Silk Baby fought hard to clinch the runner up slot from Rock N Rio and Philadelphia.

For the professionals, trainers Narendra Lagad and Magan Singh Jodha saddled a double each, while Dashrath Singh topped the day with a treble and jockeys A Sandesh and Imran Khan scored a double each.