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By Usman Rangila | 16 Sep 2023 | PUNE

Trainer P Shroff leading Northern Lights (P S Chouhan Up), winner of The Parimatch Pune City Gold Cup

The grey six-year old Northern Lights continued his dream run to notch up his seventh straight victory and claim the Parimatch sponsored Pune City Gold Cup here on Saturday. Pesi Shroff nursed Northern Lights (Lethal Force – Prescription) had a fight on his hands on this occasion as he was taking on the bay mare Forest Flame, whose career record was equally good if not better than him. The terms of the race also favoured the Suleiman Attaollahi-groomed Forest Flame, who had vanquished Northern Lights a year ago in the same race where she had trumped Juliette. Although she was away from competitive racing for over seven months, the fact that the scales were tilted in her favour was too obvious to be ignored, both by the bookies and punters. Accordingly, Trevor Patel-ridden Forest Flame received better support than Northern Lights in the betting ring. Notwithstanding these academics, Northern Lights proved his mettle with a tenacious performance in the hands of Pradeep Chouhan, who was a perfect foil for his mount’s talent.

In what appeared to be a strategic move, Chouhan threw a ‘catch me if you can’ challenge at his rivals when deciding to hit the front with Northern Lights. The proceedings of the mile event were enlivened only when Trevor brought Forest Flame into contention and joined the issue with Northern Lights, who enjoyed an uncontested lead till the final turn. Just when it appeared that Forest Flame was getting stronger, the rein slipped from Trevor’s left hand as he tried to remove his whip. Northern Lights, meanwhile, kept going as Chouhan gave him a couple of cracks in the final furlong and hit the wire a neck ahead of Forest Flame. Despite the unfavourable terms of the event, Mojito finished a short-neck behind the runner-up having gained good ground in the final stage after moving stealthily through the inner rails. But neither Mojito nor Forest Flame could deprive Northern Lights the glory he deserved. Count of Savoy ended fourth. It may have been a hard luck story for Forest Flame but that doesn’t take anything away from the lion-hearted performance of Northern Lights.

Dallas Todywalla-schooled Sky Fall finally managed to wrest the initiative at the start and sprinted ahead to make every post of the six-furlong journey for the Excellent Trophy a winning one in the hands of Neeraj Rawal. Sky Fall (Leitir Mor – Classic Sky) however survived a scare from K. Nazil-piloted Baby Bazooka, who came with a menacing run through the shortest way home but found the winning post coming to the rescue of the winner. Joaquin and Son Of A Gun, who finished third and fourth respectively, were both outpaced.

Miss American Pie, who made a winning debut at the start of the current season, scored her second successive win in a tantalising finish. The MK Jadhav-mentored filly raced closed behind the no-hopers Mojo, Moonlight Kiss and Dilbar, who led the field into the straight where they were collared by favourite Sovereign Grey and Superimpose both. After his desperate search for a clear run towards the rails, Dashrath Singh managed to spur Superimpose into the lead with Trevor working hard on Sovereign Grey to make an impact. However, it was Miss American Pie (Gleneagles – Australe), who swooped down on the leaders after being set alight by Nikhil Parmar opposite the stands. The bay filly won sparing a neck to Superimpose who was separated by three-parts of a length each from Sovereign Grey and Flashing Famous. Sovereign Grey deserves to be persevered with and so does Flashing Famous, who is capable of earning a bracket before the scene shifts to Mahalaxmi. New Dimension, who was racing after a long lay-off should improve after this run.

Young Behram Cama-saddled Transcend, who ran leisurely when finishing runner-up to Sea The Sun in his previous essay, graduated from the maiden ranks in the Fourth Estate Trophy, run over a mile and quarter. Exuma, who was lesser fancied than only Transcend, was eased off after a smart jump by Parmar to be settled behind the four front-runners headed by Capucine and Alexandros. The last named shot into the lead when entering the home stretch and soon had Exuma in pursuit. With a little over a furlong to go for home, Exuma got the better of Alexandros but he was strongly challenged by the Chouhan-ridden colt, Bugatti. Before these two could settle their dispute, CS Jodha brought Transcend (Quasar – Diani) with a lightning run and nailed them both in the last couple of strides. They were separated by a neck each. Eaton Square, who was brushed up halfway through the race to be in touch with the leaders, finished a faraway fourth. Both Exuma and Bugatti should not linger in the maiden ranks for long.

Following a weight-reducing mission undertaken after his last success in Mumbai, Rambler was back at the mark where he could harvest the fruits of his labour that were relished by his connections. After lying in the mid-bunch in the initial stages of the seven furlong trip, the six-year old bay saddled by Shazaan Shah made steady progress to catch hold of leader Enlightened and assume command after the heads had turned for home. Rambler (Leitir Mor – Stravella) stretched out under TS Jodha’s whip to win comfortably from Flying Scotsman, Fortune Teller and Pyrrhus, who went past the post together. Flying Scotsman ended a noteworthy second ahead of Fortune Teller with Pyrrhus finishing a neck away.

Placed to win in her own age group, Faisal Abbas-trained Anoushka justified her favouritism in the day’s opening event. S. Saqlain kept Anoushka handy behind early leaders Hela and Rising Brave and made his move only after the field had straightened for home. Anoushka (Leitir Mor – Aemilia) was hard-ridden by Saqlain before taming Hela close home. Dagger’s Strike finished on well to grab the second place from Hela with Silver Steps, Between Friends and Spiritual Rock in close tow.