Oban Is A Totally Transformed Filly
Trainer J S Dhariwal leading Oban (S A De Sousa Up), winner of The Topmost Cup
Trainer Dhariwal's small-made filly Oban (Greensmith-Royal Dornoch) made light of her winning penalty, and stormed home to a fine victory in The Topmost Cup on Saturday. The manner in which she raced today showed a vast change in her attitude towards the sport, as also, a total transformation in her racing habits. For a runner who has always graced the rear end of the field, before increasing her momentum in the straight, Oban performed differently today. She was keen from the word "go", travelled a close fourth in the early stages, seized the advantage in the final furlong and got stronger and stronger at the finish.
For a filly, who had been out of depth at the top of Class II a couple of months ago, this was an applaudable effort. In less than a month, this was her second successive victory in the highest Class. A closer look at her run in a similar event held in the early parts of this season tells the rest of the story. Oban had finished way behind Criminal Lawyer and Blink on that day. The fact that she managed to get the better of them in today's feature, at terms which were unfavourable to her, signals the marked improvement that the trainer has been able to bring about in this talented filly. A group of ten runners lined up to face the starter.
The bookmaker's odds reflected the "open" nature of this race. Bottom-weighted Camelot, Criminal Lawyer and Classerville figured at the top, while Oban and Blink were close behind the three of them. Even though Classerville was the most talented runner in this race, his long absence from a race track and the bandages that he was seen to be sporting today, failed to enthuse his supporters. Criminal Lawyer's poor showing as a favourite in his last start, and Oban's winning penalty for an earlier success, added to the confusion. Those who felt that Camelot would carry his postage stamp weight to a start-to-finish mission, were in for some bad news. The moody horse ran lethargically throughout the race, and finished at the tail-end of the field. Classerville showed the way to Blink, Systematic, Oban and Criminal Lawyer till the bend before retiring from the fray. Blink was passed by Oban in the straight, and under the relentless guidance of Sylvester Desouza, the filly began to dominate the proceedings.
Criminal Lawyer made up a lot of ground on the wide outside, and finally managed to finish a fair second. Blink hung on to his third spot, while Henry's Secret plodded along to fill the rest of the frame. A more enterprising jockey astride Criminal Lawyer may have led to a closer finish. The day began disastrously for big-time betters. The first two races of the day saw the eclipse of hot favourites Swift Star and Capote. Both these runners looked unbeatable against their present opponents, and the bookmakers were reluctant to offer more than 30/100 on the two of them. Suraj Narredu took Swift Star to the front in the day's opener, and the free-striding horse led comfortably till well into the straight. He was chased by Recharged, Moves Goodenough and Day Trader, who were seen racing in single file till that point in time. The leader began to send distress signals in the final furlong, and was seen being passed by his pursuers.
Faraz Arshad's Recharged (Itaquere Power-Soviet Angel) responded to Srinath's handling and scampered home to win by a length from Moves Goodenough and Day Trader. The money-back favourite stopped in his tracks to end a tame fourth. A public announcement soon after, confirmed that Sprint Star had burst his blood vessels during the running of this race. The next one to bite the dust was Dhariwal's Capote. Running in The Hyderabad Silver Vase, a richly endowed sprint for maiden two-year-olds, Capote was one of the five runners. Despite looking quite gross on debut, this stout colt had ended third behind the talented Zultanite. Based on that run, as also his good showings on the track thereafter, Capote was considered to be unbeatable in this set.
The only one who ran with an outside chance was Ganapathy's Magnitude (Alnasr Alwasheek-Divine Diamond). The filly had already run twice, and this was going to be her third start in less than one month. Her best form was a second-placed effort, almost a distance behind Aidan. Capote played up a bit in the starting gates, and was slightly sluggish at the start. Magnitude took a good jump and led marginally from Strive And Serve and Will Still as they made their way towards the final bend. Chris Hayes was content to keep Capote off the pace, and chose to rouse him only after taking the bend. At almost the same juncture, Magnitude reacted nicely to Imran Khan's urgings, and managed to establish a firm grip on this race. Capote was put under immense pressure, but the inexperienced juvenile found it too tough to handle.
He came with a spirited gallop, but that was not enough. Prasanna Kumar's Valahak and Sirajuddin's Better Than Best won the two divisions of a scurry for horses in Class IV. Both these three-year-olds were lucky to get separated by the handicapper, and had an easy time in their respective events. With the withdrawal of second favourite Sky Marshal, there was hardly any opposition for Valahak (Royal Gladiator-Liquid Gold). John took him to the front and stayed there till the very end. The rider had the pleasure of looking back repeatedly in the straight. Amiable Lady and Trillion Win managed to save place money for their connections. Appu had an equally comfortable experience astride Better Than Best (Duja-Sound Insight). The filly darted to the front, and the rider was unperturbed for rest of the way.
She raced on a tight leash, and gave Appu an armchair ride to victory. A heavily whipped Natural Force got up in time to displace Hurrican Royal from the second berth. Sharat Kumar's What A Friend (Placerville-Scarlet Lake) finally got his turn to enter the winner's enclosure. This horse enabled John to complete the solitary professional double on Saturday afternoon. Racing against a formidable opponent named Modern Art, What A Friend received strong support from his followers. David Allan took Modern Art to the front, and led from Best Time and What A Friend. John decided to play the waiting game, and was content to race off the pace. He pulled his mount towards the centre of the track, and made his charge in the straight. The response was immediate, and the winner was sighted a long way from home. What A Friend lengthened his strides to win easily from Mr Ambassador and a tired Modern Art. The only other race in the day's card was won by Irfan Ghatala's Montedoro (Itaquere Power-Superiority).
Despite scoring an authoritative victory on the track, the winner had to re-confirm the result in the Stewards room. Jockey B Paswan was definitely astride the best horse in this race, and therefore, had little trouble in coming from the rear end of the field to decimate the opposition. But he made a mess of it by causing an interference to Citrali and Supremacy while doing so. One For The Money, Supremacy and Citrali were alongside each other, when Montedoro arrived on the scene. He shifted inwards to make contact with Citrali. The filly lost balance, shifted inwards and gave a knock to Supremacy. As a result of this interference, both the fillies faltered in their strides. This enabled the late-rushing Gift Of Love to take the second spot. The Stewards considered the available evidence before over-ruling the objection. The widening margin of victory enabled Montedoro to retain his place at the top of the result board.