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Pune 2010 Had a Perfect Script

By Mahendra Mallya | 01 Nov 2010 | PUNE


The recently concluded Pune Meeting 2010 contained a perfect blend for what it takes for an entertaining thriller. An extremely well-scripted season by the RWITC, it had all the ingredients for Bollywood pot-boiler: High Drama - Su Chaliyo - Ciel Indienne. Comedy - Jockey Ladjadj Stephane shoving jockey Neeraj Rawal during a race. Thrills - Photo finishes aplenty. Tragedy - Running Bull. Emotion - Malesh Narredu bidding farewell and a trophy in memory of late Mrs Villoo C Poonawalla. Separation - Vinayak parting ways with Dhunjibhoy. Suspense - Which of the Wadhawan contenders would win! Special Appearance – Atlantus. Success Story - Dashrath Singh winning his first champion jockey title. Award Winning Performance - Narendra Lagad for his fifth Championship in Pune.

Guest Appearance - Amesha Patel, Suneil Shetty and Jackie Shroff. On a serious note, the Pune Season 2010 was an overwhelming success and a well-conducted one. Most of the races were competitive and barring a few races, the odds were in favour of the punter and if one applied his mind and possessed necessary patience, there was money to make from the betting point of view. The RWITC deserves due accolades for the efforts put in and ensuring an eventful and well-organised season.

The Oktoberfest and the various entertainments in the paddock added to the colour and gave a new dimension of lifestyle entertainment clubbed with competitive horseracing. Perhaps the only facet that ought to be reviewed by the committee is the distribution of stake money to handicap races. There is a huge tilt in the stakes here, as compared to other centres viz. Bangalore and particularly, Hyderabad.

A close ratio of stakes between the first three horses and a lesser percentage to the fourth would probably be a fair option. With the Club enjoying the ’prime racing centre’ status, this aspect begs to be addressed. Ocean And Beyond had the last laugh when he won the Nanoli Pune Derby, thus making up for the shock defeat at the hands of Eloise in the SA Poonawalla Multi Million. This, despite below par handling by Rajendra in the most important race of the season. Rajendra himself would agree that he could have done much better than he did on the day.

Ocean And Beyond was shown daylight much earlier than expected and the short Pune homestretch played a decisive part in his triumph. Sunlight almost embarrassed the Wadhawan camp, who were more than confident of the OAB’s victory. Then there was Berlusconi who seemed gaining on the favourite with each stride and finished in close behind. I for one would stick to Ocean And Beyond for the Mumbai season. With either a much wiser Rajendra or (as the buzz has it) Richard Hughes to partner Ocean And Beyond, the Sunderji-trained gelding will be a tough nut to crack.

Trainer Narendra Lagad had a dream run once again and he was consistent right through the season. Naren, like most of his horses are known to do, hit the front from the first weekend and never looked back. He increased his tally winning races each week and always kept ahead of his contemporaries. Midway through the season, he had a sizable lead and his championship never looked in doubt. He duly won the trainers’ Championship by a ’distance’. Dashrath Singh was a revelation. He rode with zeal and guile and won more close finishes on his own than he lost.

The jockey championship was a just reward for this shy and good-natured jockey who has often been underrated. To have won against Rajendra, M Narredu and B Prakash is a great achievements and the season is sure to be etched in his memory forever. Then there were two young lads namely, P Trevor and A. Sandesh, both of whom impressed in the saddle. Trevor seemed to grow in confidence with each passing day. Sandesh looked composed and pulled off some brilliant victories. Despite a fall during the latter part of the season, Sandesh returned to the saddle and if there was any fear in his mind after the fall, he never showed it. He has shown exceptional maturity and is sure to make his presence felt in Mumbai. I don’t reckon both these boys would take too long to graduate to full-fledged jockeys and complete the stipulated 40 winners to do so, sooner than later.

Pesi Shroff was a busy man trotting around the country, winning the Calcutta and Hyderabad Derbies. He fared well in Pune too. His ward Cabriolet came back from a lacklustre form to dazzle towards the end of the season leaving a mark in the record books for the best timing on the monsoon track. His trainer Pesi Shroff was brilliant but sadly not as frequently as one anticipates him to be. Sunset Boulevard was another from Shroff’s yard that bounced back commendably after a setback.

Eloise and Xisca were among others from his string to have made a mark during the season. Camacho too showed out in his second outing to prompt one to keep him in mind for Mumbai. However, Macchupicchu and the highly thought off Hillary disappointed. Violetta too fell short of expectations, but I would not write off Violetta. The Mumbai straight is the one she would adapt better. Pesi Shroff, however, emerged as the trainer with the best win percentage (23.08) winning 21 races out of 91 saddled.

Blackjack surely looks one for the Classics. She has the brilliance and showed a lot of class. The big question, however, would be her staying prowess. As of now, there is no question that she will give anyone in her age group a run for his/her money up to a mile. Nefyn is on the right course to grow into a classic sprinter. He was flawless on the track in Pune and he proved there was no one to really test him in the three victories he scored. He is unbeaten in Pune and that should spill over to Mumbai as well. He is currently the best sprinter on the western India circuit. I had been a lot more adventurous in my praise for Nefyn when he had first won in Pune 2009.

I recall, I had even hailed him as a fitting candidate to fill the big shoes of the great Oasis Star. His blemish in Mumbai did not deter me in rooting for him when he began his campaign in Pune, and although he is yet to prove himself in terms of what Mr Shapoor Mistry’s mare has achieved, I daresay he is heading in the right direction. With the experienced Bezan Chenoy to mould him, I am sure Nefyn will do Western India proud in his tougher assignments amongst the best sprinters in the country.

Sunlight is an out-and-out stayer. Watch him over the extended trips. Even a mile looks sharp for Sunlight. Her strength is her stamina. She would be a formidable Leger candidate. A grand season now concluded, the scene now shifts to Mumbai. The Mumbai Meeting 2010-11 is all set to start on schedule on the 14th of November, 2010. Along with the Five Indian Classics, the added attraction will be the Turf Invitation Cup in March 2011. Mr Vivek Jain and his team are sure to bring in a number of sponsors with the glamour and entertainment quotient that makes the seasons so much more enjoyable. On behalf of the entire indiarace team, I wish you all a very happy Diwali and a prosperous New Year.