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By Mahendra Mallya | 13 Oct 2019 | PUNE

Mr Rajesh Monga & trainer SK Sunderji leading Trouvaille (CS Jodha Up), winner of The Pune Derby (Gr.1)

The Pune Derby day was a grand success and form held good in the glittering eight-event card. The crowds came in huge numbers; the atmosphere was as electric as it can get. The festive atmosphere of fun and frolic was evidently merging with the excitement and suspense of the Grade I Pune Derby. The October Fest was the added attraction to enliven the day even further a perfect value-add on the occasion. The only glitch to the otherwise perfect turn of events was perhaps taking away the race from Belgravia following an objection.

Shiraz Sunderji was the man of the moment and jockey CS Jodha the hero of the day, while Trouvaille (Surfrider – Highly Fashionable, Ruia Stud) rightfully claimed the Superstar status. Trouvaille had run twice in this season and while his first start was well below par, he had shown a lot more resolve when finishing on strongly and missing out narrowly on pegging back the winner Sultan Suleiman. Unfortunately, Sultan Suleiman was withdrawn on the morning of the D day on vet grounds and that robbed the race of a much higher scale of excitement.

The eight runners took off at a steady pace with Prince Valiant making the bold move forward to lead the field. He galloped at a true pace with Rhapsody in second; Wizard of Stocks was in third with Moriseiki on the inside, Trouvaille and Victorious Sermon were close behind with Justified and Daddy’s Pride at the rear.

Prince Valiant led until into the straight and soon Wizard of Stocks charged past to lead the field with about 400 to go. Trouvaille made good progress while taking the turn and was on the haunches of Wizard of Stocks; these two pulled away from the rest pretty quickly. Jockey CS Jodha turned on the heat approaching the distance post and was all over Wizard of Stocks. He did hang inwards and for a moment drifted in, a tad too close to Wizard of Stocks. However, it was clear that he was finishing on much faster than Wizard of Stocks. Trouvaille surged ahead in the final 100 meters to score an emphatic victory providing trainer SK Sunderji his second Pune Derby success. His moments of glee though was breached, when jockey Neeraj Rawal of second placed Wizard of Stocks, lodged an objection, more out of hope than conviction against Trouvaille for cutting across about 200m from home, which was duly overruled.  

“I was confident before the race and delighted after,” said jockey CS Jodha. “Trouvaille has improved considerably and has a lot of scope for maturing further to achieve more success. He travelled nicely throughout but I had to urge him around the bend to keep him ready for the final charge. He responded very well and just like Rochester (Indian Derby winner) Trouvaille will also stay in my memory for providing me with my first Pune Derby victory. I thank Mr Rajesh Mongia for entrusting me the ride. I am also grateful to SK (SK Sunderji) sir who has always been encouraging and supportive. I have learnt so much from SK sir and I am happy to have been able to pull off this win for all of us. Special thanks to the stable staff too who are the behind-the-scene men who work equally hard,” said jockey CS Jodha.

Imtiaz Sait’s Iron Age (Strong Suit – Intrigue, Manjri Stud) continued his remarkable run of success,  sprinting away to his fourth win on the trot. He has been in rousing form and has gone from strength to strength particularly this season. With YS Srinath astride, Iron Age was at his beasty best and scorched the turf clocking a cracking timing of 1:08:12 just split-seconds shy of Ruffina’s record of 1:07:93 same time last year. What was mindboggling was the manner of victory. He led from the start and was hard held all the way until into the final furlong! The other contenders were no match to his speed and there were top class sprinters in the fray and he was giving weight to each of them! Simply amazing!

Joplin (Stern Opinion – Chiquelle, Pratap Racecitement) was the bolt from the blue and she upped her game on the big day. The Noshir Cama trained filly settled in second behind Pokerface until into the straight and then fired away to build a handy lead. Flaming Martini came charging-in to challenge and the duo matched strides midway in the straight. Joplin, with jockey Yash Narredu atop, was relentless and stretched away nicely to score a convincing victory stopping the clock at 1:08:67 which was impressive. Flaming Martini yet again found one better and this despite clocking his personal best. Same old story for Excellent Gold who rose from the last position and beat the rest to finish a good third although three lengths from the runner-up.

Turmeric Tower (Diffident – Smoky Opal, Yeravada Stud) got going in the final furlong to down Clark Kent close home. Clark Kent had done everything right as he sped further ahead after leading them into the homestretch. Turmeric Tower, saddled by Narendra Lagad, was ridden hard by jockey Dashrath Singh and that helped the filly inch closer to Clark Kent. Not one to give up easily, Clark Kent put up a fierce fight before going down close home by a narrow margin. Turmeric Tower showed a lot of grit and produced a powerful finish to put her neck in front just in time to score her second win for the season. Julio Cesaro edged out Tasch for place money.

Vishal Gaikwad trained Gods Plan (Leitir Mor – Stravella, Poonawalla Stud) scored his maiden win to clinch the Jimmy Umrigar Trophy Division I in a dramatic fashion. There was a hush of dismay when he was off to a sluggish start which saw him detached from the front bunch. He, however, improved steadily and was in striking position as they turned for home. Once in the straight, Gods Plan, with jockey Akshay in the saddle, sizzled through to whizz past C’est L’amour and company effortlessly to sail ahead to score a comfortable victory by over four lengths, which, less than a minute back, looked improbable. On this run, he should win again.

Rehanullah Khan’s ward Alauddin Khilji (Arazan – Kilpspringer, Poonawalla Stud) snatched the lower division of the race and this too was in a dramatic fashion as he was awarded the race in the stewards’ room following an objection.

Pezula led them into the straight with Belgravia looming large on the outside. Alauddin Khilji was stuck along the rails with Knight Superior close behind. Belgravia fought with Pezula past the 400 m mark. Alauddin Khilji tried to take the gap between the two. He failed in his first attempt in doing so and when he tried again Belgravia moved in while making a forward surge past Pezula. Belgravia kicked on gamely and held off the resurgent Alauddin Khilji who finished on half a length behind with Knight Superior on his haunches ending a close third.

An objection by DS Deora, the jockey of second placed Alauddin Khilji against Zervan seemed a technical one as Zervan had moved inward but was little over a length clear and surging ahead. The fact that Deora had not stopped riding at any juncture led many to believe that Zervan could be fined at the most. However, it was surprising to see the objection being upheld and the order of placing altered in favour of Alauddin Khilji. What was even more surprising was the fact that the decision was unanimous when there was enough ground to ponder over whether Alauddin Khilji would have beaten the winner had he not crossed him. It should have also been analysed whether Alauddin Khilji fell back or Belgravia gained unfair ground over Alauddin Khilji.  That remains subjective and to a large extent inconclusive. The benefit of even the slightest of doubt ought to go the winner’s way, but with the stipes voicing their opinion in sync for upholding the objection, there seemed no one to take up for Belgravia. Incidentally, Alauddin Khilji came in for support and was backed down from high double digits to single digits at race time. One only hopes that consistency is maintained when a winner is displaced after being ahead in the race.

Trainer Malesh Narredu sent out a popular double on the day combining with his nephew jockey Suraj Narredu. Mystic Bay (Leitir Mor – Memory Bay, Poonawalla Stud) was up for his first assignment in Pune. He had to work hard for his win though, as two time winner Majestic Warrior was getting to be too hot to handle at the business end.

Odessa led them all the way into the straight with Mystic Bay and Majestic Warrior keeping each other company a couple of lengths behind. On turning for home, Mystic Bay and Majestic Warrior went for it at the same juncture and sailed past the leader. Both fought stride for stride right to the winning post, with Mystic Bay enjoying a very slight edge in the final few strides. Jockey Suraj Narredu had to dig deep and he kept going all the way to ward off the challenger and etch out a narrow victory. Majestic Warrior fought gamely right through and ended up a gallant runner-up. Hyannis closed-in on the pair to finish well and take the third place.

Suraj next partnered Auspicious (Excellent Art – Lovely Kiss, Poonawalla Stud) and had to fight off another warrior – favourite Warrior Clan in the concluding race of the day. Warrior Clan looked on-course as he entered the straight, but was soon challenged by Auspicious. The pair fought a few strides but it was clear that Auspicious was finishing on a lot better. Sure enough, he drew away to win comfortably. Warrior Clan fought well but lost to a better colt on the day. Revelator improved in the straight to save place money.    

For the professionals, trainer Malesh Narredu and jockey Suraj Narredu scored a double each.