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By Usman Rangila | 28 Oct 2022 | PUNE

Mr Zaveri Poonawalla & trainer SS Attaollahi leading Forest Flame (A Sandesh Up), winner of Teena Katrak Memorial R.W.I.T.C. Ltd Trophy (G.2)

The six-year-old petite grey mare Juliette, whose lion-hearted performances had fetched her a unique band of ardent fans, always carried an aura of invincibility with five group one victories under her belt. The Karthik Ganapathy nursed mare bounced back after her controversial defeat in the delayed 2021 edition of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup held in December last and won back-to-back races including the Invitation Cup 2022 held three months later at Chennai. The sparingly raced Juliette took a seven-month sabbatical and returned earlier this month at Pune, presumably to start her conquests anew. Who knew then that it would  turn out to be the most traumatic and disappointing phase of her career.

Juliette went down by neck to Forest Flame earlier this month, which was widely considered as a hard luck story and an aberration. She was expected to make amends in the Teena Katrak Memorial RWITC Ltd on Friday but it was not to be and she tasted her second successive defeat at the hands of Forest Flame in a matter of less than three weeks. Jockey A Sandesh once again proved to be a compliment in the saddle for Forest Flame when outwitting his counterpart CS Jodha aboard Juliette. The event not only proved to be a test of Juliette and Forest Flame’s class and ability, the temperament of both Sandesh and Jodha was also on trial.

Northern Lights set the initial pace and was closely followed by Caprisca and Forest Flame with A Star Is Born and Juliette further away. Sandesh yet again judged the pace nicely and brought Forest Flame within striking distance of Northern Lights at the halfway mark. Jodha too was forced to make his bid with Juliette, probably a bit too early and that too wide on the outer flank. As the field travelled further and turned for home, Northern Lights surrendered the lead without much ado to Forest Flame, who then stole a march over her rivals. Juliette had to come wide into the straight and sent distress signals as Jodha tried to ignite a winning gallop. Juliette just couldn’t catch Forest Flame who stretched out well when given a couple of backhanders by Sandesh. Forest Flame romped home a length and half clear of crestfallen Juliette. Caprisca ended third with Northern Lights and A Star Is Born behind.

Jockey S Saqlain is on a roll and seems to have acquired a Midas touch of sorts. The young lad, who happens to be jockey Imran Chisty’s nephew, guided Murwara Princess (Tenth Star – Radical Attraction) to a narrow but confident victory over Chat. Earlier, Starry Spirit hit the front despite being restrained by Antony Raj and took a long lead before losing steam while turning for home. Beyond Measure then took charge but had Chat and Murwara Princess in hot pursuit. Murwara Princess found herself caught between Beyond Measure and Chat but Saqlain showed supreme confidence in taking the narrow gap and drove the Faisal Abbas saddled filly ahead. K Nazil atop Chat got a late response from the grey filly and fell a neck short at the wire. Top-weighted Gangster too warmed up late and came with a strong run to finish third ahead of Beyond Measure.

Saqlain achieved a back-to-back double through another favourite Successor (Leitir Mor – Sweeping Success), who showed a clean pair of heels to her four rivals in the Delhi Race Club Trophy. One Wish and the other three runners were reduced to chasing Successor’s shadow as Dallas Todywalla’s ward stepped up the pace in the home stretch. One Wish finished a faraway second with Flying Visit and Giant Star in close tow.

The success of these two favourites aside, punters were sent on a leather hunt by the other fancied runners. The day started on an ominous note with the piping hot favourite Alpine Star from trainer Narendra Lagad’s yard biting dust. Karthik Ganapathy made good use of 5kg-claimer P Vinod atop Trinkets (Corporate Jungle – Tourmalet), who finished on with a flourish to get the better of Mustakim Alam piloted Alpine Star in the final 50m of the six furlong sprint. Alpine Star had just managed to tackle Nord, who was on a start to finish mission, when Trinkets flashed on to the scene.

Lagad however led in two fluke winners during the day, which proved to be a double whammy for punters. The long in tooth Power Of Thor (Whatsthescript – Octagleam), ridden by Dashrath Singh, showed remarkable zest as he stretched out well to take the lead when involved in a fierce battle with favourite Periwinkle, Speculator and leader Shadows.

Excellent Gold (Excellent Art – Only For Gold), another aged horse saddled by Lagad, came with a long stretched run to spoil the party of favourite Pisa close home. Like his barn-mates Nord and Shadows, long shot Dilbar too tried pillar to post tactics in the ‘No-whip’ event but found Sky Hawk, Pisa and Excellent Gold all three ranging alongside in the last 50m. Joy Chinoy ridden Excellent Gold ended a neck ahead of Pisa and Sky Hawk with Jetfire edging out Dilbar to complete the frame.

It was a case so near yet so far for Lagad's two other runners Desert Fire and Remy Red.

Mustakim ridden Desert Fire and stablemate Majestic Warrior made all the running over the seven furlong trip for the Dakshin Maharashtra & Goa Sub-Area Trophy. Desert Fire had almost hit the winning line when Saqlain set alight F Abbas trained Cipher (Excellent Art - Mooring). The mare flew in response to catch Desert Fire virtually on the post. Pure was unfortunate not to get a clear run towards the rails as he finished a close third with Majestic Warrior a short-head behind.

Remy Red with K Nazil aboard almost pulled it off after taking charge from Silver Spring approaching the grand stand but he caught a tartar in Alpha Gene. Veteran Ivor Fernades nurtured Alpha Gene (Smuggler's Cove - Blumarine) got a brilliant ride from Dashrath, who drove him resolutely to grab the verdict from Remy Red. Excellent Star ran on to pip Silver Spring for the third slot.

Alpha Gene completed a hat-trick, a perfect tribute to all the hard work put in by his master Ivor Fernandes, who celebrated his 75th birthday on that very day.