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By Ikram Khan | 11 May 2024 | OOTY

Leading saddle artiste Umesh and trainer Mandanna dominated the card framed for racing on the eve of the HPSL Nilgiris Derby at the Blue Mountains. Mandanna in fact recorded a hat-trick leading in the first three winners. On what proved to be a red letter day, Mandanna first struck through rank outsider Arikattu in the opening event, the Sapporo Handicap run over a distance of seven furlongs. The winner piloted by Manish assumed command half-way home and never let the initiative slip to romp home in resplendent style. The favourite Touch Of Fury raced in patches and failed to even save money in place. Memory Lane from Sebastian's yard followed the winner home ahead of Eclipse Award.

After the pleasant surprise, Mandanna proudly led in Krishvi in the Own Opinion Plate. The favourite partnered by Umesh tracked the second in demand at the betting ring, Dramatic for most part of the seven furlongs trip before hitting the front approaching the final curve and quickly putting the race to bed in the final furlong. Another fancied contestant Annette followed Krishvi home, while Dramatic managed to save money in place. 

In line for a hat-trick, Mandanna  sent out Great Spirit, a ten to one long shot in the upper division of the Delhi Race Club Trophy and the topweighted five-year-old mare in the hands of Kuldeep Singh produced a stellar performance to make her trainer proud. The favourite Knotty In Blue from Ramanathan's yard performed below par and finished down the field, much to the disappointment of his supporters. Rupa-trained Bohemian Star, another long shot finished second and the 1-2 shock result stunned the followers of form looking to get the better of exchanges on the Derby week-end. 

The lower division of the event was claimed by the lesser fancied six to one shot Wood Art strongly piloted by MS Deora. The winner from Uthaiah's yard hit the front at the all-important end to score from Rwanda. The public choice Lady Luck after being favourably placed for most part of the sprint trip lacked the gas in the tank to make a race of it and faded out in the final furlong. 

The Suraj Shaw schooled Seeking The Stars and the James McKeown-trained Samurai Blue topped the betting board in the Bangalore Turf Club Trophy run over a sprint. The former piloted by Umesh gained a favourable position early in the race to score from Samurai Blue who was ineptly handled by Soufane Moulin who failed to provide the McKeown ward a chance to make a race of it, gracing the wrong end of the field before finishing with a late burst to gain the runner-up berth. Cynosure finished a `nose' behind the runner-up and is one for the notebook. 

After the bad loss of Lady Luck, the top fancy Gold Fame brought the smile back on the face of James edging out Salome close home. Umesh produced a heartwarming effort on the winner packing punch in the final furlong to gain the verdict at the all-important end. Safety in the hands of Inayat finished a suggestive third and it will not be long before this Sebastian trainee earns her cornbill. 

Spurred by the success, Ramanathan struck again through the 15 to one shot Sheer Elegance in the concluding event, the Mysore Race Club Trophy. A smashing winner on debut, Summer Song from trainer Mandanna's yard was fancied most, but the top fancy in her effort to make every post a winning one lost steam approaching the straight and finished down the field. Dharshan Antony who piloted Summer Song failed to provide the required saddle assistance, needlessly checking his mount approaching the straight and this cost the public choice dear, Summer Song not recovering from the bad checks, thanks to Dharshan, who failed to exercise control. King O Star gained the runner-up berth and on the strength of this performance should be fancied to go one better next time out.