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By Mahendra Mallya | 12 Aug 2019 | HYDERABAD

Trainer Rajesh Narredu leading Star Superior (Suraj Narredu Up), winner of The Nizam’s Gold Cup (Gr.2)

The prestigious Nizam’s Gold Cup (Gr.2) is one of the destinations for top horses in the business from around the country. Usually the competition is tough with some closely matched thoroughbreds vying for supremacy. This time however, the towering presence of Star Superior, a special talent competently nursed by trainer Rajesh Narredu, made the other rivals of a small field look like lesser mortals. Contrary to the universal belief that despite giving a good chunk of weight Star Superior would have it easy, the 2000 meter race panned out in a manner that left the spectators spell bound. And the result showcased the mettle of a thoroughbred that showed what it takes to be a champion and a jockey who displayed nerves of steel in a crunch situation – a case of separating the men from the boys! In the end, Star Superior’s was a dramatic victory with a suspenseful climax not rare in the glorious sport of horseracing. Such finishes is what makes the sport a truly pulsating one!

It all began with Rikki Tikki Tavi running away at a good clip to buff his way and fluke it. He galloped hard and rather too fast for the distance in his attempt to throw the top-weighted Star Superior off guard. Big Sur settled well a few lengths behind, Like Wise was in third, while Star Superior played the waiting game with confidence. Mr Handsome was further behind with Wave Rider.

Rikki Tikki Tavi led them in the straight and soon Big Sur made a forward charge. Star Superior moved up and started to chase down Big Sur, but the latter raised his game and Star Superior was certainly coming under pressure. Stepping into the final furlong, Big Sur had a handy lead and all he had to do was to keep the momentum going for another five seconds to cause a sensation.

Star Superior and Suraj Narredu put in a combined effort and started to inch closer with each stride. They came level with a 100 to go and with Big Sur giving it his all, everyone in the stands were wide-eyed, waiting  impatiently for the culmination. To add to the suspense Mr Handsome put in a fiery burst and started catching up fast with the fighting duo.

The roar from the crowd was deafening when Star Superior headed Big Sure just a couple of strides from the all-important end.  While Big Sur’s heroics thwarted, another threat loomed large as Mr Handsome flew past the stands; however Star Superior, carrying all of 62 kilos, made a decisive lunge to quell the second challenger in the nick of time to win the race after a prolonged fierce and relentless fight. It was a treat to watch the finish and not only Star Superior, but Mr Handsome and Big Sur too raised their stocks and won the admiration of the lovers of this wonderful sport.

Deshmukh trained Prince Valiant (Varenar – Alma Mater) obliged his large number of supporters scoring a confident win following his debut victory about a fortnight earlier. Jockey Ajeeth Kumar kept him close behind Kamyar who led them into the straight. Havelock Cruise improved quickly on entering the homestretch and was progressing well along the inner rails. Prince Valiant got the measure of Kamyar approaching the distance post. Not far behind, Havelock Cruise had to shift out and shift in again trying to make his passage and in that he made the task even more difficult. Kamyar too shifted in at a crucial stage of the race and so sharp was his inward drift that jockey Zervan atop Havelock Cruise had to check his mount. Prince Valiant by then had established a fairly good lead and got the race a lot more easily than he eventually did, had not Havelock Cruise been interfered with by Kamyar. Nevertheless, Prince Valiant did gallop resolutely and I reckon only the margin of victory would have been lesser.

Mehrzad yet again failed to deliver the telling blow after shaping well until the final few strides. He did most things right leading from the start. He increased his lead and was about five lengths ahead coming into the final furlong. Star Envoy (Green Coast – Molecule) with Zervan astride, moved under the whip and some hard riding and started gaining ground briskly. Favourite Tapatio was making a reasonably strong bid, but found Star Envoy too good on the day. Eventually Star Envoy broke away to score by two lengths and Tapatio managed to pip Mehrzad for the runner-up berth.

NRI Symbol (Dancing Forever – Secret path) put in a strong gallop after snatching the lead midway in the straight. He had Bayrd, Vijay’s Empire and Tootsie Roll snapping at his tail but jockey Kuldeep Singh rode out relentlessly to keep the Robin Reddy ward going all the way. Bayrd did well to beat Tootsie Roll for the second place. Tootsie Roll had to switch lanes when he was gearing up for the final assault and that cost him dearly.

Versallies (Green Coast – Delafruz) saddled by D Netto, warded off a late bid from favourite Zamora to clinch the race in a close finish. Versallies moved up soon after crossing the 400m mark and tackled the front-running Celeritas. Soviet Pride and Zamora were gaining ground on the outside. Zervan drove Versallies ahead and amassed a handy cushion which held him in good stead in the end. Zamora produced a short burst of speed and arrived very fast, but Versallies had it covered and held on to win by half a length. Soviet Pride clipped Celeritas for the place money.

Doroteo (China Visit – Dazzling Queen) from the stables of Sequeira, justified the faith posed on him by the punters and scored a well-fought victory which seemed long due. He had last won in 2017 and this win was his fifth in 25 starts.

There was excitement building up as City of Sails entered the straight with a good lead as he had done while winning his last start. Rajneeti was within striking distance and soon jockey Koushik got busy on Doroteo. Rajneeti could not counter when Doroteo challenged him and surged forward. Exclusive Striker moved up fast along the rails, while Vancouver was rallying from the outside. Doroteo simply carried on and sped away to score by just over two lengths. Exclusive Striker ended a good second; Rajneeti did well to save the place money, keeping Vancouver and Hope is Eternal at bay in a close finish for the minor slots.

Delmonico (Ontario – Mizillablack), trained by Ananta Vatsalya, yet again beat Symbol of Star’s with a lady bid and covering some ground in the final stages of the race. Symbol of Star’s had established a good lead on entering the straight and was shaping well to last it out. On the contrary, Delmonico was at the rear of the field and made rapid progress approaching the turn and stuck to the rails and that ploy paid off well in the end.

Symbol of Star’s kicked on towards the winning post when Delmonico started to warm up nicely. He picked up speed and challenged Symbol of Star’s strongly and surged ahead meters from the winning post to score yet another victory by a narrow margin. Symbol of Star’s was a tad unlucky after returning second best despite a good effort. Limousine finished in the money.

For the professionals, trainer D Netto saddled a brace, while jockeys Zervan and Ajeeth Kumar scored a double each.