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By Mahendra Mallya | 19 Dec 2021 | MUMBAI

Mr Zavaray S Poonawalla & Mr Yohan Poonawalla leading Alluring Silver (Suraj Narredu Up), winner of The Zavaray S Poonawalla Indian Turf Invitation Cup (Gr.1)

The Invitational race day lived up to its tall expectations and ace rider Suraj Narredu rode his luck to pick up three winners on the big day. It was fortuitous that Suraj landed two of his winning rides that came his way in the ‘Nth’ hour. Ashwa Bravo and Alluring Silver were declared to be ridden by Irish jockey David Egan. However, Egan could not fly in due to Covid norms as someone in his contact had tested Covid positive, hence he could not travel. Another stroke of good fortune was that Suraj had not accepted any other ride in those particular races and he replaced Egan on both the mounts which were owned by Mr Zavaray Poonawalla. Suraj made most of it by successfully guiding the two top horse’s home.

Suraj’s biggest victory was astride Pesi Shroff trained Alluring Silver (Leitir Mor – Personal Allure, Poonawalla Stud). Suraj rode a peach of a race, keeping the filly in check while also being aware of the situation all through. Hot favorite Juliette was switched off along with Parisian and both the mares were way behind through the backstretch. Successor was all alone in front, well ahead of Lagarde settled in second. Arcadia raced a couple of lengths behind Lagarde followed by Alluring Silver in fourth; Juliette and Parisian were still far behind Sovereign Legend at the halfway stage.

Lagarde made his move early as he caught up with Successor at the turn and made a dash for the lead. Arcadia got past the tiring Successor but had Alluring Silver right on her tail. Juliette and Parisian too were catching up as they sped past the 400m mark.

Suraj waited another few meters and then began to urge Alluring Silver to unleash her best. Alluring silver took off in an instant and worked up a fine rhythm, galloping fluently past Lagarde with a little over 300 meters to go. Parisian could not find her touch and caved in under pressure. Juliette had still to make up about three lengths and she started to gain ground. However, Alluring Silver was going extremely well and stayed well ahead of Juliette to clinch the race comfortably ahead of Juliette.

Post-race arguments and counter arguments are always crispy and this one was no different. Sandesh had fingers pointing at him for staying ‘too far back’ in the first half of the race and ‘leaving too much to cover’ in the homestretch. There were those who pinned the blame on Sandesh and it is learnt that an enquiry will ensue.

Juliette was only about four lengths in deficit to Alluring silver with about a furlong and half to go. Alluring Silver didn’t falter after picking up momentum, while Juliette had a leeway to cover and despite all efforts in the straight, Alluring Silver stayed ahead to clinch it by a length and a half. Lagarde ended third a good four lengths further behind.

Pesi Shroff trained local star Miracle (Multidimensional – Khalila, Usha Stud) reduced the Villoo Poonawalla Indian 1000 Guineas (Gr1) to a no-contest as she cantered to victory on tight reins. Lit was the one to lead them all the way until into the straight with Dragoness in second. Miracle was ridden well off the pace and jockey PS Chouhan confidently kept the star filly in check until into the straight.

While Lit and Dragoness were going all out, Miracle ambled over and cruised past them in a flash. Without burning any fuel, Chouhan had Miracle stretching away, toying with the opposition, as he looked over his shoulder more than once, more out of pride and glee than playing to the gallery. One can understand the delight of partnering one of the most, if not the most prolific filly on display among the current crop. Miracle only enhanced her reputation with the manner of victory and announced herself as the strong favorite for the Indian Derby (Gr1) 2022. She won by close to seven lengths clocking a smart timing of 1:36:93, that without as much as twitching a muscle. Petronia improved position in the straight and did well to take the runner-up berthjust ahead of Teresita.

Bangalore based Multifaceted (Multidimensional – Dhaawiah, Usha Stud) trained by Darius Byramji, clocked his personal best timing to ward off a late but stiff challenge from Corfe Castle. It was Iron Age who led the field until well into the straight with Smashing Blue close behind; Multifaceted raced along the inner rails, along with Enigma and Golden Oaks, while Corfe Castle tailed the bunch by about two lengths.

On turning for home, Iron Age was giving it his all but had Multifaceted breathing down his neck. Enigma shaped well on the outside, while Corfe Castle started to warm up on the wide outside, racing literally on the center of the track. Jockey Suraj Narredu had saved Multifaceted well and pressed the button just at the right moment. Multifaceted responded with a fiery gallop and surged easily past Iron Age and had a handy lead coming into the final furlong. Enigma was not giving up, but she was not matching up to the leader either. It was Corfe Castle who was gaining briskly on Multifaceted and the duo fought hard and all the way to the wire. It was a close call but Multifaceted had just made it in the nick of time as another stride could have seen a different result. Suraj Later admitted that he was concerned about the speed with which Corfe Castle was catching up and he did wish for the winning post to come to their rescue! Multifaceted won by a neck and Corfe Castle would rue the fact that he was left to do a tad too much in the homestretch. Enigma did pretty well too although she finished another two and half lengths behind Corfe Castle.

Bangalore based Cosmic Ray (Burden of Proof – Corsican Gal, Kunigal Stud) reeled off a stylish victory to claim the Major PK Mehra Memorial Super Mile Cup (Gr1). Born Queen flopped once again on the Mahalaxmi track as she faded away soon after leading them into the homestretch.

Cosmic Ray took charge early in the straight and sped ahead to build up a handy lead approaching the distance post. Born Queen weakened and a pack of horses stormed past her. Taimur traveled the best of the beaten lot and tried to bridge the gap to challenge Cosmic Ray. The SS Attaollahi ward, however, kept the momentum going all the way with jockey Sandesh riding the five year old mare out until safely ahead of Taimur. Northern Alliance rallied well from the rear to finish third.

Chennai based My Opinion (Dialed In – Love Me Good, San Craintes Stud) took the stayers’ crown with a good effort and had to dig deep to stave off a stiff challenge from Theon and the race over 3000 meters went all the way to the wire. They went about their motion with Apsara Star pulling away a distance clear of the rest into the backstretch, taking over as they raced past the Grand Stands for the first time.

The race took a more realistic turn at the 1000 meter mark as the others started to close in with Magistero joining Apsara Star as they began to wheel round the final turn. Salazaar made a quick headway and charged ahead past the front runners, who had Bisate and My Opinion on their tails, to lead them into the straight. My Opinion quickly set about in chase of the new leader. Theon, who was gracing the rear for most of the journey, started to improve past the 400m mark. My Opinion with Akshay Kumar in the saddle, started to inch closer to Salazaar approaching the distance post. Salazaar fought hard, but the race was slipping away from his clasp. My Opinion got him with about 100 to go, but he could not relax as Theon arrived with a late dash. The winning post was still a few strides away and with Theon catching up at a good rate, the excitement was building. My Opinion went for broke as did Theon and eventually the winning post arrived in the nick of time for My Opinion who held on by a neck to win the Dr MAM Ramaswamy Cup (Gr1) and providing trainer B Suresh his first glory at the venue.

Hyderabad based Ashwa Bravo (Leitir Mor – Shadow Roll, Poonawalla Stud) justified the strong support he received by churning out a clinical performance to bag the Suresh Mahindra Multi-Million (Gr2) by a healthy margin. Jockey Suraj settled Ashwa Bravo in second behind leader Mystic Bay with Augustus Caesar and Sultan Suleiman close behind. Another couple of lengths behind were Victorious Sermon and N R I Valley.

Mystic Bay fought a losing battle in the homestretch and was soon passed by Ashwa Bravo. Once in the lead, Suraj got Ashwa Bravo in top gear and the four-year-old colt quickened very well to spurt ahead of the rest. Sultan Suleiman put in his might but could not muster well enough to even put up a worthy challenge. Ashwa Bravo galloped resolutely to seal the issue in the final furlong to provide trainer Srinivas Reddy his moment in the Sun, his ward winning it by over three lengths from Sultan Suleiman. Victorious Sermon improved to beat Mystic Bay for the third.

The opening race of the day set a hot pace for the day. O Hansini (Saamidd – Wajanaat, Hazara Stud) after overhauling Son of a Gun and Hawk of the Wind approaching the distance post, drifted out just as Mehr was making her bid from the outside. O Hansini crossed Mehr before kicking on to win by two lengths causing a flutter. The heavily backed Mehr had to change course and her rider Chouhan lodged an objection against jockey Dhebe citing interference and also stating that it could have led to an accident. The Stewards however, overruled the objection and trainer Rakesh heaved a sigh of relief. Mehr could soon make amends.

For the professionals, jockey Suraj Narredu was the star performer of the day picking up three top races, while trainer Pesi Shroff scored a grand double winning the Invitation cup and the Indian 1000 Guineas!