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By Mahendra Mallya | 29 Oct 2017 | PUNE

Trainer Arjun Mangalorkar leading Aster Rose (Dashrath Singh Up), winner of The Aquaguard Championship R.W.I.T.C. Ltd Gold Cup (Gr.2)

The Aquaguard Championship RWITC Ltd Gold Cup (Gr3) featured the final-day card and lived up to the pre-race hype of a thrilling finish. Of the seven runners, most of the betting was usurped between Aster Rose (11/4), Phoenix Tiger (3/1) and Colombiana (5/1).  

Phoenix Tiger ventured to make his own pace and led the field soon on settling down. The rest followed close behind galloping in a tight huddle with Colombiana at the tail end of the field.  

Phoenix Tiger had a task ahead as they turned for home with his main rivals closing-in.  Both Aster Rose and Colombiana moved to the outside to mount their assault. Aster Rose, with Dashrath Singh atop got going approaching the distance post and got alongside Phoenix Tiger and the two were battling hard. Colombiana started to inch closer in the final furlong. Aster Rose gave it her all and surged past Phoenix Tiger and in the last fifty meters the Arjun Mangalorkar trained filly had accounted for Phoenix Tiger but had to contend the late charging Colombiana. Dashrath rode out well and Aster Rose was resolute all the way to the finish, Colombiana just missing out by a head.   

Cambridge (Burden of Proof – Chimerique, Kunigal Stud) showed tremendous resolve and Neeraj – a never-say-die effort to carve out a sensational last stride win. The old cliché – snatching –victory-from-jaws-of-defeat would be an apt phrase for the manner of this victory.

Flag Flying has amassed a big lead on turning for home and was all alone in front past the distance post.  

Neeraj improved positions and set about chasing Flag Flying and cutting down his massive lead. Although Cambridge picked up speed and was moving the fastest, the gap between himself and the leader seemed too long to bridge. Also the winning post was fat approaching and did seem that Cambridge would have to speed, but not enough ground to topple Flag Flying. Cambridge proved all that wrong and Neeraj Rawal showed great determination and skill in surfacing just at the right moment to catch Flag Flying on the post to secure a dramatic last stride win. 

Dashrath Singh celebrated his new championship title by riding out a treble on the day including Aster Rose. He had an easy success astride Narendra Lagad trainee Harmony (Royal Kingdom – Count the Stars, Equus Stud) earlier in the day, as he raced in the mid bunch until the turn and then made a good forward surge.  

Untitled had led from the start all the way until they turned for home. Into the straight, Untitled weakened slightly and soon Harmony arrived with a big gallop. She streaked ahead with a zestful run and in little time had bounced away from competition. Royal Eclaire tried hard but could not match up to the winner. Cristo Boss finished on well even managing to pip Royal Eclaire for the runner-up slot.  

Eiger’s Tiger (Whatsthescript – Octagleam, Nanoli Stud) went one better over his last run and came into his own to sign off the season with a morale-boosting win.  

Irisis, Safdar and Samurai were up in front while Eiger’s Tiger was a couple of lengths behind them. Irisis charged ahead and built a small lead but both Safdar and Samurai caught up with Irisis at the distance post. Eiger’s Tiger the warmed up well and with Dashrath Singh in top form, he had Eiger’s Tiger picking up speed and timing his finish to a nicety. Eiger’s Tiger put in a good burst in the last 50 meters to beat them all at the wire in a close finish. Samurai and Safdar dead-heated for the second place.  

Renato (Arazan – Free Radical, Ponawalla Astonish Stud) proved a tough customer with a mature run on his debut, beating a big field of seasoned runners with ease and from the word go.

Jockey Suraj Narredu nursed Renato to the front and had Good Thing on his haunches as they sped away out of the gates. Philadelphia and Grappa were close behind this pair as they turned in to the homestretch.  

Renato stepped up pace soon after and surged further ahead from the bunch striding cleanly and looking good. He looked the winner even before coming into the final furlong and Suraj had the luxury of easing Renato up long before the winning post. Trainer Malesh Narredu surely had the debutante in the pink of condition and Renato is one among his crop to be noted.  

Stunner (Varenar – Monopoly, Nanoli Stud) bounced back after a couple of seconds to sign off on a winning note. He shot into the lead as usual only this time he showed a lot more resolve and held his ground all the way. Malavika and My Prescious tried hard to challenge Stunner, but neither could make an impact on the winner. My Precious just got the better of Malavika on the wire.  

Slam Dunk (Sussex – Escalating, Pratap Stud) was another one that has been consistent and he too held on grittily to win after a spate of seconds this season. He was off to a good start as he normally does and kept the momentum going. There were threats lurking once they entered the straight, with Triple Threat coming too close for comfort, however, Slam Dunk with apprentice M Ayyar in the saddle, held on courageously to notch up a much-needed win. Knight’s Quest made a late dash to end an eye-catching second, just ahead of Triple Threat and Lady In Red.  

Much like Cambridge spoiled the party for Flag Flying, Gdansk too emerged from a huge deficit to pip Happy Birthday on the post.  

Happy Birthday had the final furlong all to himself with Gdansk way too behind. Gdansk took a stride or two to warm up and then began to chase down Happy Birthday. It still looked tough for Gdansk to overhaul the leader, however, in the last fifty, Happy Birthday was running out of steam and Gdansk seized the opportunity and pounced on the leader to just get his nose to the wire in the nick of time.  

Juliano (Burden of Proof – Jennifer, Ruia Stud) pulled off an upset in the day’s opener with a clinical show, saving his bet for the last. The Sanjay Kolse ward, ridden by upcoming apprentice SA Amit, covered a lot of ground in the last 200 meters to win his bracket. Tote favourite Voulez Vous yet again let her followers down with a tardy start.   

Furiosa came into the straight with a handy lead and was galloping well making it appear that she had enough to make it all through. Winds of Change was the first to challenge Furiosa and just when these two were fighting hard, Juliano arrived with a strong finish to sail ahead and score a comfortable victory.  

The concluding race of the season was claimed by trainer Nazak Chenoy’s Aurelia (Phoenix Tower – Star Always, Manjri Stud). Setting off quickly from the gates Aurelia was right up in front with Dakota and Angels Harmony until they turned for home. While Dakota faded away quickly, Angels Harmony and Aurelia were involved in a fight to the finish. Aurelia seemed better equipped to deal with the pressure although she did run a bit erratic for a briefly while. Jockey G Santosh then rose to the task and handled the filly better at the business end to sail ahead and win easing up. Wabi Sabi finished on fastest to end a noteworthy second, implaying that the Mumbai straight would suit him better.  

Dashrath Singh was the star of the concluding day, booting home a treble, and trainer Narendra Lagad saddled double and also ended the season winning the Champion trainer title for an impressive eighth time.

The Award ceremony for the season was held just after the seventh race with Mr KN Dhunjibhoy doing the presentation honours. 

Following were the leaders in their respective categories.  

Leading owner – Shapoor Mistry of the Manjri Group. 

Leading Trainer – Narendra Lagad 

Leading Jockey – Dashrath Singh 

Leading Jockey Claiming Allowance – DS Daman 

Leading Bookmaker Pune – Latif Associates 

Leading Bookmaker Mumbai – Banarasi Das 

Leading Stud Farm – Manjri Stud