Xisca Sinks ‘Alice’ in a Slow-run Oaks
Xisca (B Prakash Up), winner of The Poonawalla Stud Calcutta Oaks 2010 Grade-III
As was speculated in this column, a slow pace set by the normally lazy Strike A Deal suited the 10-to-3-on favourite Xisca to the hilt and she edged out the fashionably bred filly Alice Springs at the wire in the Poonawalla Stud Calcutta Oaks. Not happy with that, she gave her stablemate a kick in the shins after passing the winning post. It must have been quite a nasty one as Christopher Alford had to dismount from ‘Alice’ after that. Enough of ‘horseplay’, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Firstly, the lack of a pacemaker proved to be a spoiler.
Why Kamlesh on Andromache did not have the enterprise to break free is difficult to comprehend. That was her only chance against the two Pesi Shroff-trained starlets. Then again, Christopher Alford did not ride a perfect race. He gave his filly too much to do at the turn – which was fine – but what compounded matters was Strike A Deal was fast coming back at him and Shezad Khan refused to be intimidated and budge from the rails. C. Alford is so used to grabbing the rails, that he was a little taken aback and was compelled to switch his mount out. These factors may have well cost him the race. Having analysed the race thus, it would still be fair to state that Xisca (China Visit-Altimara) was brilliant in victory. She won a mile-and-half classic fair and square and that is what counts in this game. Jockey B. Prakash kept her off the pace (fifth of six runners) – just behind stablemate Alice Springs.
The winner faced no traffic problems as she came on the outside to lock her stablemate in a do-or-die battle all the way down the straight. She eventually got her head in front at the wire. In the 13-horse field for The Army Cup, Prakash rode Habbu-trained Ikaria (Juniper-Symphony) to perfection. He was covered up till well into the straight where he came with telling strides to grab the lead from the tiring Rimpuche and Arktouros. The property of the Dhunjibhoys is known to enjoy a late run and he relished it to the hilt. Stablemate Chios was a flying third and needs to be followed.
The two divisions of the seven-furlong race for The Dasho Lhendup Dorji Memorial Cup saw Darius Byramji-trained Born To Fly (China Visit-Born To Dance) and the vastly improved Carmen (Ikhtyar-Placid) from Sarfaraz Khan’s yard come up trumps. Christopher Alford enjoyed a fairly easy ride on the half-money favourite Born To Fly. He kept her tucked in till the bend and thereafter sailed past Awesome Indian who had taken up the running ahead of Bourbon Queen. Carmen’s win was truly mind-boggling. She won by five long lengths from the fancied pair of Moon Flower and Generous Thought. From the running of The Haskell David Memorial Cup, Impressive Wish was better than the winner at weights but failed to impress on this occasion.
The mile race for the A.S. Vaidya Memorial Cup saw a ‘Riding Fantasy’ from Kamlesh. He took a leaf out of C. Alford’s book and made a bee-line for the rails from the last berth while the latter on Auckley struggled to get past Secret Love in the straight. The Arti Doctor-trained filly Riding Fantasy (China Visit-Deserving Lady) thus defied the 4kg penalty pretty impressively. With this win, Kamlesh completed a double. He had earlier piloted top-weight Southern Angel (Warrsham-Southern Star) to a narrow victory in the lower division of The Amorina Handicap. Her start-to-finish effort almost came to nought at the wire as Asghar on Saddle Chief came with a telling run in the straight. In the upper division of the same race, Daniel David-schooled Opportunity (Hymn-Thundering Bay) lived up to her name by winning a close finish from Blue Grass and Star Infinity. Rather surprisingly, the fancied trio of Shanghai Gal, Accomplished and Best Bet were not in the picture.
Somewhat ironically, both Southern Angel and Opportunity returned bleeding from their nostrils after their respective races. Christopher Alford’s first winner of the day was a two-year-old Whistling Strait (Sunday Doubt-Westlem Whisper). There was no doubt about this filly winning on a Sunday. She got the better of second favourite Mehzabeen quite easily in The Astrodance Place. She may well prefer a longer trip as she matures. The mile race for The T.N. Banerjea Gold Cup was bagged by the on-money Tintoretto (Storm Trooper-Aglow) in the hands of Kishore Kadam. The Habbu-trained winner was however given a fright by six-year-old Agnation who came with a late run. Brave Move found his weight a stopper.