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By Mahendra Mallya | 30 Dec 2018 | MUMBAI

Trainer S K Sunderji leading Dandi March (C S Jodha up), winner of The Usha Stud Million

Only one favourite – Eagleinthesky obliged in the seven-event card at Mumbai. Followers of form were confounded by at least some of the results, as it is a given that long-shots do merger victorious now and then. However, it was shocking that four of the first five races paid out dividends in three figures! The Jackpot and Super Jackpot pools remained unsolved as rank outsiders ruled through the day.
Trainer SK Sunderji’s ward Dandi March (Chevalier – Salt, Ruia Stud), who was beaten comprehensively by Royal Crystal and by a good margin too! This was a phenomenal reversal of verdict on their last encounter. Royal Crystal, was a pale shadow of his debut.
It was Arabesque and Across the Sea who led the field home with Dandi March in third, Royal Crystal a length behind. Across the Sea bowed out soon after and Arabesque darted ahead. Dandi March started to warm up and soon came alongside Arabesque. This pair fought it out for a few strides and then Dandi March accelerated well to surge ahead in the last 100 meters and score an impressive victory and claim the Usha Stud Million, the feature event of the day. Arabesque ended taking the runner-up spot while Royal Crystal ended a tame third almost four lengths further behind.

The day started on an ominous note for the followers of form, with the longest priced winner surfacing in the first race. Bold March (Arazan – Warsaw Pact, Exhilaration Stud), from the stables of Karthik, was least fancied of the six runners.
Zanara led them until into the straight and when Sagittarius came by, Zanara bowed out without any resistance. Texas Gold shaped well and improved and it looked he could draw closer to challenge the new leader. However, Sagittarius kicked on and managed to thwart Texas Gold. Bold March saw a lovely opening between horses and jockey Bhawani Singh progressed well to challenge Sagittarius. The duo battled hard and in the last couple of strides, Bold March got the measure of Sagittarius and carved out a narrow win. Sagittarius was gallant in defeat and never gave up.
Hodson’s Horse (Sedgefield – Sinai, jai Govind Stud) trained by Adhiraj Singh, produced an aggressive gallop in the final furlong to score an impressive win on debut amidst experienced rivals. He was not in the best of positions when they turned for home, closer to the rear end of the field with 400 to go. Furiosa and Arabian Storm were in the lead with Flammeus inching closer with every stride. Anniversary Girl and Hodson’s Horse made their move at the same time. Flammeus was going for the lead when this pair joined him; Anniversary Girl had squeezed between Flammeus and Hodson’s Horse, had to be checked at a crucial juncture. Hodson’s Horse sped away with jockey SS Baria firmly in control and they made a dash for the winning post leaving the rest far behind. Anniversary Girl came on with a gallop and managed to peg back Flammeus to snatch the second place.
Rehanullah Khan’s ward Safdar (Ace Flaming Glory, Exhilaration Stud) scored a clinical start to finish victory. He led them into the straight and then quickened well to steer clear of the rest. At one stage it looked that Arashi would get past as she was travelling hard held, but when asked to open throttle, she had nothing to offer and went down tamely. Safdar on the other hand, galloped on strongly and looked the winner even with about 100 still to go. Questionable and Finest Moment fought out the minor slots with the former snatching the runner up berth by a slender margin.
Artus (China Visit – Altimara, Greentree Stud) was ably ridden by jockey PS Chouhan who made the right moves at the right time. Settling in the mid bunch until the turn, Artus moved up to be fourth as they straightened up. Astral  Flare and Patriots Day faded out alarmingly and Artus grabbed the opportunity to storm ahead at a good clip. Momentum failed to get a clear passage and was not able to slip through at one go. He had to probe and prod before forcing his way between horses and through a very narrow gap he finally found. However, by then Artus, trained by Nosher Cama, had taken a decisive lead and Momentum, though ridden hard did not get enough ground to rally any further. Artus held on by less than a length to prevail. Momentum was definitely unlucky and missed a good chance to score. Benevolence kicked on to edge out Gdansk for the place money.
Shahzaan Shah trained Steppenwolf (Dean’s Kitten – Queen Raina, Sohna Stud) put in a determined run, unfazed by the two challengers who put constant pressure for the better length of the straight. Rookie Malam Singh showed a big heart as his lead came under threat with Mount Olympus and Pablo tried to wear him down. Steppenwolf too showed good resolve and galloped on gamely always staying slightly ahead. In the final moments, Pablo drew level, but Steppenwolf gave it his all to clinch the issue by a head. Pablo was just a stride short and was gallant in defeat. Mount Olympus too tried hard and did well to finish in the money.
Eagleinthesky (Footstepsinthesand – Trumbaka, Nanoli Stud) toiled hard in the straight to hold on to his lead and was stretched alright. Leigh Roach dashed ahead soon on turning for home and was quick to establish a handy lead. Sylvester started to chase him down and was working his way closer to the leader. Pandarosa also started to progress and was catching up with the pair in front. With a furlong to go, it appeared to be a close call but jockey Leigh Roach rode out astutely to ward off the challengers and guided the Shroff trainee to his maiden victory on his fourth start. Sylvester ended on the haunches of the winner with Bhaktawar putting in a spirited finish to peg back Pandarosa for the third place.