ASHWA RAUDEE WINS ARTILLERY CUP
After scoring a pleasing win on debut last December over the six-furlong sprint, Laxman Singh trained Ashwa Raudee (Speaking of Which – Serrafina) displayed his staying prowess while winning the Artillery Cup, despite carry the heavy impost of 62 kilos, with jockey CS Jodha in the saddle. The fact that he was going over the mile and quarter for the first time makes his victory even more praiseworthy, as he beat a couple of more fancied runners who had gone the distance earlier.
Jodha settled his mount nicely and early in the mid-bunch as Prime Gardenia galloped to the front and led them all the way into the straight. Favourite King Roger was stalking the leader all the way and moved up to seize the lead on straightening up. Ashwa Raudee made steady progress on turning for home and began to wear down King Roger. Forever Bond and Moringa too were in contention as they were approaching the distance post. Ashwa Raudee however, sailed ahead smoothly to take charge in the final furlong. Forever Bond tried hard to catch up, but Ashwa Raudee had plenty in the tank and kicked on to win, sparing a length and half at the winning post to Forever Bond. Moringa beat King Roger comfortably for the third spot.
Srinivas Reddy trained Burano (Air Support – Belladee) once again showed that she is in top condition this season, with another start-to-finish victory while winning the Raja Saheb of Challapalli Memorial Cup, defying the penalty she incurred for her maiden win three week ago. Burano sped away from the gates to hit the front and had California Beauty and Furious Fun close behind. On-money favourite Keystone raced a few lengths behind in the fifth spot until the turn.
Jockey Ashhad Asbar had Burano hard-held until past the 400m mark and shaped well as the two close behind were making no impact. Rising Queen improved to chase Burano who was galloping all out. Keystone had to switch lanes and she made her bid from the wider out. Burano had a handy lead coming into the final furlong which held him in good stead. Keystone picked up speed a touch too late, hence although she was moving strongly and even better than Burano, she fell short narrowly as Burano held on by a neck. Rising Queen finished another length and haif behind to claim the place stakes.
In-top-form jockey Akshay Kumar lost some, but returned with a rich haul of three winners in the day. He began the day on a victorious note astride trainer Hassan’s Indian Glory (Oiseau De Feu – Days of Glory) in the opening event of the day, the first of the three divisions of the Twin Cities Plate. Indian Glory thrived under Akshay Kumar’s handling and galloped away to notch up his maiden win on his ninth start. Her trainer Hassan too deserves accolades for bringing the gelding to the fitness levels required to fire away as Indian Glory did.
Indian Glory settled behind early leader Ashwa Pushkin until into the turn, with Southern Act close behind. Favourite Despang moved up from the mid-bunch and this quartet was well ahead of the rest.
Indian Glory tackled the leader easily and sped away building up the lead along. Southern Act took a while to get into a rhythm, but when she did, she progressed well and was closing in on Indian Glory. Indian Glory however, did not weaken and managed to ward off Southern Act to score by a neck. Despang came under pressure and was racing on the centre of the course. She could not muster well enough, ending a tame third. Nevertheless, she showed considerable improvement this time and should shape better in her next outing. Despang showed a bit of spark in beating Ashwa Pushkin for the third place.
City of Blessing (Excellent Art – Accessorize) trained by Sreekant, pulled off an exciting win to open her account on her third start. Jockey Mukesh Kumar had City of Blessing in third behind Exotic Dancer and Unsung Hero until well into the straight. Unsung Hero had a good lead in the straight as he left Exotic Dance behind and stepped up speed. City of Blessing had a good opening along the rails, yet Mukesh chose to change course and move to the outside. Unsung Hero galloped hard and was still a couple of lengths ahead past the distance post. City of Blessing, under a couple of cracks, quickened well to make a dash to overwhelm Unsung Hero in the last couple of strides to score narrowly. Unsung Hero did everything right and ended a gallant second, well ahead of Cabello.
In contrast to the two well-fought divisions for the maidens, Blue Origin (Roderic O’connor – Messalina) pulled away from his rivals to score in the third division of the race, by a huge margin of over eight lengths. Akshay Kumar had little to do after he settled the Laxman Singh’s ward by about three lengths behind Silk; the latter showed good initial speed before weakening in the straight.
IN the homestretch, Blue Origin reigned supreme. He didn’t fuss at all as he sailed into the lead and dominated the stretch, galloping nice and easy all the way to make it a one-horse race. Although he won in a canter, he clocked the best timing over the winners of the two top divisions and that marks him as a serious talent for the future. Akshay could easily afford to look back and ease his mount in the final furlong. Sea of Class improved reasonably well to finish second well clear of First In Line.
Jockey Bopanna astride favourite Ice Berry (Corporate Jungle – Velvet Queen) rode a competitive race to achieve his second successive victory, adding to his maiden win which he scored late last month. In the early stages, Ice Berry, who had jumped out well, was cramped for space and had to drop down out of the front bunch. There was a rush for the early lead and amidst some jostling, Theo’s Choice got to go to the front with Shelly Anne in second followed by Winning Player and Air Salute. Ice Berry had dropped to the seventh spot approaching the turn.
Into the straight, Theo’s Choice had to work hard to stay in contention as the others were getting closer at a fast clip. Winning Player was a bit erratic when asked to accelerate and ice Berry found herself sandwiched between Theo’s Choice and Winning Player. Jockey Bopanna did well to avoid a collision and checked his filly only to make a speedy comeback with a powerful run. Winning Player drifted out too, but Bopanna rode out the Sateesh trainee forcefully and fired away to win comfortably in the end, packing off Winning Player convincingly. Sea Wolf and Rhine both finished well and improved considerably to take the minor slots.
Four One Four (Royal Gladiator – She’s Hip) had last won in November 2020 but she was fairly consistent this season having placed regularly. She got to her best of the season this time and warded off a strong challenge from Miss Marvellous at the business end of the race. Nearest wrested the lead from Red Snaper soon on turning for home and was going well. Four One Four was improving fast and was a live threat with a furlong and half to go. Star Racer too looked in contention, while Miss Marvellous was warming with Sheldon on the outside.
Four One Four got past Nearest and was rushing for the post when Miss Marvellous arrived with a fast burst. The duo fought hard and jockey Deepak Singh held his nerve to ride out vigorously to pull off a thrilling win by a ‘head.’ Nearest finished in the money, while Sheldon completed the frame.
Akshay Kumar signed off with his third win, this time partnering Sun Dancer from the L D’Silva stables. Sun Dancer (Ravel – Ekta Ekta Ekta) added to his solitary win which was in November last. He settled in the fourth spot as Golden Forza led them into the straight with a sizable lead; Fantastic Show, NRI Gift and Sun Dancer followed the leader into the straight.
Golden Forza didn’t last out as he had in his last outing and gave way to Sun Dancer who was picking up speed with every stride. NRI Gift tried to put up resistance, while Starwalker and Team Player were also putting in their efforts. Sun Dancer skipped away working up a good forward dash to romp home in style with a big margin. NRI Gift ran on to finish second ahead of Starwalker.
For the professionals, Akshay Kumar stood out with a fine treble, while trainer Laxman Singh saddled a double.