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By Mahendra Mallya | 15 Sep 2019 | PUNE

Mr Dinsha P Shroff & Mr Munchi P Shroff leading Sultan Suleiman (A Sandesh Up), winner of The S A Poonawalla Million (Gr.3)

It has been a while since a glittering card was on offer at Pune and the SA Poonawalla Million day card was just the kind of day that was a shot in the arm to the season's racing program. The crowds came pouring in and the racing action too was at its thrilling and competitive best. 

The feature event, the SA Poonawalla Million (Gr3) was as exciting as it gets with no clear favourite as Victorious Sermon the prime fancy was over 6/4 in the betting ring and the rest available around the fives or more. 

Golden Guest was off the blokes the quickest and led the field with Sultan Suleiman in second, Victorious Sermon settled in third alongside Trouvaille on the rails, while Mzilikazi and Prince Valiant were close behind at the rear. 

Sultan Suleiman (Arazan - Saffron Dancer, Poonawalla Astonish Stud) made an early move and easily zipped past Golden Guest on entering the straight. Trouvaille had to switch lanes for a clear passage and he went after the new leader and was closing in briskly and these two pulled away from the rest rather too early in the straight, favourite Victorious Sermon failing to quicken and faring below par. 

jockey Sandesh rode out confidently astride Sultan Suleiman and kept the Altaf Hussain trainee going right to the last stride and held on bravely to win by a narrow margin. Trouvaille had his chances but could muster fast enough and ended a gallant second.  Victorious Sermon did not raise a game gallop and ended a tame third. He was in on this big occasion without a run behind him and can be expected to do better next time out. 

Pesi Shroff's Copper Queen (Zaffany - Bay of Roses, Manju Stud) floored the calculations of the followers of form and the 15/1 shot stunned favourite Questina with a determined gallop holding the favourite off by half a length. 

Copper Queen was off to a good start and led the field with Knight Superior in second and Questina close behind in third along the rails. Copper Queen galloped on relentlessly and Questina moved out to collar Knight Superior and make a charge at the leader. Questina picked up well but with Copper Queen was not one to bow down and the pair fought out the last furlong. Jockey Yash Narredu was at his aggressive best and kept Copper Queen going all the way to carve out a narrow victory, earning Copper Queen her first winning bracket on her sixth start. Questina could have done better, but failed to deliver the killer blow after doing most things right, hence had to end second. Knight Superior ended a tame third. 

Jockey Yash Narredu had earlier piloted strongly fancied Lorraine (Mull of Kintyre - Fourpenny Lane, Sohna Stud) to a fine victory to win the Serum Institute of India Trophy. Barack made the early move in the straight and got past easily as he collared the front running My Pleasure and stormed ahead soon on turning for home.  Lorraine set up his chase at the right juncture and made steady progress to catch up with Barack midway in the straight and then did what was just enough to surge ahead and clinch the race. Yash had the luxury of easing up his mount well before the winning post as he guided the Noshir Cama trained mare to her third career win, but her first over the mile distance. Barack found one better but will surely find his moment in the sun before long. Bhaktawar improved towards the end to take the third spot. 

Trainer Ms Nazak Chenoy and jockey Imran Khan combined well to etch out a double on the day. Their first strike was with Pleiades (Dean's Kitten - Six Stars, Sohna Stud) a long-shot at 10/1. 

Jockey Imran Khan got off to a good jump and darted alone the rails to led the big field right from the start. That was have the job done well and then he paced nicely to open throttle once they entered the straight. Pleiades responded well and accelerated effectively to surge forward leaving the rest to chase him down. Super Mario made a strong bid to catch up but failed to make an impact. Pleiades kicked on gamely to stay comfortably  ahead and score his second career win. Super Mario had to continue to work hard as Enid Blyton came charging in the final 100 meters and threatened to take away the runner up berth, however, Super Mario held on to it by a neck. 

The trainer-jockey then scored with She's A Tiger (Phoenix Tower - Tigress Noire, Manjri Stud) in the penultimate race of the day. 

Navigator led early and until into the straight and then flopped badly. Star Silver took a narrow gap along the inner rails and rallied well to go into the lead with about 300 to go. She's A Tiger came by with a nicely timed finish and challenged Star Silver. The duo battled neck and neck and eventually She's a Tiger got the upper hand a couple of strides from the post to launch her maiden win after a long wait of 15 earlier outings. Star Silver did most things right but bowed under pressure in the dying moments of the race. Star Silver too can hope to go one better sooner than later. Hi Ho Silver had to be content with the place stakes. 

Trainer SK Sunderji trained Intense Stylist (Western Aristocrat - Spica, Ruia Stud) was well ridden by jockey CS Jodha who was aggressive right from the entrance to the homestretch. Impala led them in with King Khalil close behind, Intense Stylist was right up there with them. ON turning for home, Impala could not sustain and even before King Khalil could move out and get past, Jodha pushed inwards and cleverly moved ahead. Once in the lead, Intense Stylist galloped on powerfully and built a handy lead that proved to be an advantage as Flaming Martini came like a raging bull to pip King Khalil for the runner up slot, falling short of a length to the winner. 

Rehanullah Khan's ward Eternal Dancer (Dancing Forever - Moselle, Hazara Stud) picked up the last race of the day. Dream Trail and Eternal Dancer were at the front until the straight with the rest closely huddled together not too far behind. Eternal Dancer worked hard with jockey NS Parmar going all out. Dream Trial was fighting a losing battle and weakened approaching the distance post. Cristo Boss threw in a challenge but not strong enough to get at Eternal Dancer, the latter holding out to win by a length from Cristo Boss. Lilbeth ran on to finish third.

For the professionals. trrainer Nazzak Chenoy saddled a double, while jockeys A Sandesh, Imran Khan and Yash Narredu scored a double each.