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By Shashank Dixit | 25 Oct 2019 | PUNE


The Third Anglo-Maratha War fought in 1817-1818, resulted in a decisive British victory over the Maratha empire. It left The East India Company in control of major geography of the Indian subcontinent with Governor General Hastings at the helm of affairs. A year later, in 1819, the first horse race was held in Pune, where a 100 Guinea trophy was donated by the Governor of Bombay, Hon.MountstuartElphinstone. Two centuries have passed since, during which India’s political and administrative space underwent paradigm shifts multiple times. What has stayed constant in this while is the richness of the sport of horse racing.Even in the contemporary times when the sport faces an “existential crisis”, the history associated with the sport has helped it retain its inimitable character.

The present site of the Pune racecourse in the cantonment was built in 1830. Racing was conducted under the name of ‘Bombay Turf Club’, which later changed to ‘Western India Turf Club’ in 1864. It was in 1935, when HRH King George V, the then Emperor of India granted permission to add the prefix ‘Royal’ to the club’s name and hence the name ‘Royal Western India Turf Club’.


Pune’s monsoon racing season offers plenty of prospects for all the stakeholders. It has a group race for every distance from 6 furlongs to 14 furlongs (except 11f) packed within a period of 3 months. It has therefore, over the years, become a preferable center for horses 4 years and older, who wish to targetblack-type races with richer stakes in winter, in the lead up to The Invitational weekend. The Aquaguard Championship RWITC Ltd. Gold Cup, Gr.2 is the last group race of the season run over 2000m.

This year’s average field rating is 102, about 5 points lower than that of last ten years. 5 geldings, 3 mares, a colt and a rig have won it over the same period. Trainer Pesi Shroff has won it 4 times, but does not have a ward running this year. The race of late has been miserable for the public fancies with only 3 favorites, 1 top-rated and 1 top-weighted winning in the last decade. 6 four-year-old and 2 raiders won in last 10 years.The average handicap of last ten winners is 53.5kgs and interestingly all the runners this year are carrying 54kgs and above.


Vishal Gaikwad trained Auburn (Champs Elysees – Atwirl) appeals the most in the field of seven runners. Auburn is coming off two victories, with the recent one being in The Threptin Fillies’ & Mares’ Stakes, Gr.3 by a margin of 3 3/4 lengths. Though she was carrying a bare 51kgs, Auburn got the better of Indian classic winners La Rondine and Roberta other than Turning Point and Watchmyscript. Auburn has won 6 races(out of 17) with 6 different riders, with 4 of them at Pune. She is also the only got-abroad in the field. The last time a got-abroad won this race was Circle Of Bliss in 2014, who was also bred at Nanoli. Though Auburn has been an underperformer, she has come into her own lately and it is suggestive that longer distances might suit her. She has been blazing the morning trials and if that is anything to go by, Auburn looks poised for an encore.

The Ethiopian long-distance athlete Haile Gerbselassie once famously said, “You lose the speed before the stamina”. It so seems that the 6-year old gelding Raees (Sedgefield – Lost Perfection) took that quote way too seriously! He recently won The Suresh Mahindra Trophy, which has the distinction of being the longest race in the country, a record third time in a row. Raees is a winner of 9 races out of 28, though only one of them was a group race.All his victories have come at over 2000m or above. The average rating of last 10 winners is about 107 and only Raees is rated above that. Raees won this very race last year in a close finish after winning The Suresh Mahindra Trophy and he has taken a similar path this year too.Raees is undoubtedly among the best stayers in the country, but there is a common perception that he lacks class, and that’s one reason why The Stayers Cup, Gr.1 still eludes him. He is the highest rated runner in this field at 113 and trainer ImtiazSait would realize that making him run in handicap class with such a high rating won’t be viable in the long run.Raees has some ‘unfired bullets’ in his story and the next few months can be decisive for him. Two-thirds of his wins have come with C.S. Jodha in the saddle, however A.Sandesh will have the reins on Saturday.

The top-weighted Secretive Force (Multidimensional – Secret Garden) appears to have matured rapidly, winning 3 of last 4 starts and otherwise has never been out of top 3 in 10 starts.He won The Governor’s Cup, Gr.3 in Bangalore in August before going down to Desert God in The President Of India Gold Cup, Gr.2. He will venture out at Pune for the first time and no trackwork has been reported at the said track.His pedigree suggests that he would relish longer distances and this race should be no different. Secretive Force will run after a gap of 47 days, though Onassis won this race in 2013 after a gap of 209 days!

Watchmyscript (Whatsthescript – Yas Marina) last won a race in February and has since lost 5 times. Carrying 52.5kgs in The Threptin Fillies’ & Mares’ Stakes, Gr.3, Watchmyscript finished 7 3/4 lengths behind Auburn (51kgs). Going by that yardstick, it’s difficult for her to put it across Auburn this time. It is to be noted that Watchmyscript was ‘slow out’ losing 2 lengths at the start. Of her 9 wins, 8 have come at mile or above. Turning Point (Surfrider – Avec Plaisir) will venture in unchartered waters on Saturday as she has never run at more than 1800m. It has been 8 months since her last win and that is likely to continue for some more time. Her trainer SK Sunderji won this race in 2012 with Capriole, who like Turning Point was the lowest rated and bottom-weighted horse in the field.

Vulcan (Segdefield – Shining Force) has won 7 races at 2000m or above, though none of them was a term race. Rated at 103, Vulcan too finds himself in a tricky handicap like Raees. Vulcan must carry heavy weights every time he runs a handicap race and is found wanting in Group races, due to a lack of class. The clubs (read:handicappers) must find some way of dealing with such horses that have reached this ‘stagnated handicap’. Bronx (China Visit – Blue Ridge) ran a close 2nd to La Rondine in The Pune City Gold Cup, Gr.3, but otherwise stands a slim chance of affecting any upset.


Monsoon retreat in the subcontinent has got delayed this year and thunderstorms are anticipated on Saturday, with a 90% precipitation forecast. It is the last meeting of the season and‘good going’ with false rails is expected on Saturday.


With two wins in the last 8 weeks followed by ‘retained form’ in morning trails, Auburn looks poised for a hat-trick on Saturday. Raees might find the distance and the rival’s class a bit sharp to handle. The outstation challengers Secretive Force & Watchmyscript are expected to put up a stiff opposition in what is expected to be a close-finish!!