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Ocean And Beyond Basks in the Sunlight

By Mahendra Mallya | 10 Oct 2010 | PUNE

Ocean And Beyond (C Rajendra Up), winner of The Nanoli Stud Pune Derby Grade-I

Ocean And Beyond didn’t leave any scope of surprises in the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby (GR1). The son of Kingsalsa out of Sayuri ran true to form and lasted out the trip but only just! Rajendra would have surely heaved a sigh of relief within himself, but never showed it nor did he admit it later. But there is no question that both Sunlight and Berlusconi gained on Ocean and Beyond in the final moments of the race. This will keep the hopes alive that they can reverse the verdict during the Mumbai Classics. Sun Elegance played his role of a pacemaker to the hilt. He was quickly out and shot into the lead to make a true pace for the big race.

Although it was not a cracker, Sun Elegance galloped at a fair clip and the others were made to follow in close order. Tintoretto initially settled into the second but could not handle the pace and packed up lot earlier than expected. Eloise chose to be up with the early pace and was in fifth just behind Zafayona. Ocean And Beyond was going right according to his script and was keeping tabs on Eloise, his conqueror in the SAP Muilti Million. Sunlight and Berlusconi, the ones who finished on well at the all-important end, were way off closer to the rear. Sun Elegance led until the turn when Eloise moved closer to the front. Sensing that his chance of pulling a trick was just right, Rajendra goaded Ocean And Beyond to the front at a sudden change of pace and shot into the lead even as they straightened for home.

Eloise was off the bridle a little before that but could not quicken. Star Warrior then slipped in through the rails but not before encountering severe traffic problems a couple of seconds earlier. Zafayona, after being prominent at the turn, had nothing more to offer and bowed out. The pace was such that only the tough would survive and Sunlight shone brightly covering ground at a brisk pace getting closer and closer with each stride to Ocean And Beyond. Berlusconi was forced to take the turn too wide and then had to make his final charge from the wider outside.

The two-time winner moved purposefully and if anyone had to complain that the luck of the race didn’t go in his favour, it was Berlusconi. However, he can only hope to improve and will take a lot of positives from this race. Sunlight, who provided a welcome first two places for his owners Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan and Prem Tharani, was the most impressive after the winner. Neeraj Rawal rode a peach of a race and his feedback too will please the connections. Ocean And Beyond, however, wrote his name in the Derby winners list.

He is a big-hearted horse with quality and a great potential to improve further. He took off at a crucial juncture, a shade too early for comfort, but did extremely well to sustain all the way. Rajendra ensured that he kept going and didn’t let the momentum go down even a bit. His theory was, as he later explained, that he had the power to go ahead, now let the others come and catch him if they can. As it turned out, eventually, no one did! And ‘almost’ is never good enough! Ocean And Beyond was deservedly crowned the Champion on the turf.

I spoke to the ones that made it happen. I caught Rajendra still on the horse, the adrenalin in full flow, an unmistakable expression of triumph writ large on his sweating face. Didn’t you pull a fast one? I asked him. “If you mean fast as in speed, I did,” he concurred. “When I saw Eloise off the bridle, I knew I was travelling a lot better. There was no doubt in my mind that he would last it out comfortably. I took my chance and went for it. The main thing on my mind was to get the rail in the straight.

He is a big horse and the rail support was crucial. I accelerated and did not let the momentum slip. He carried on and knowing the shorter Pune straight, I am still convinced that I did the right thing. I thought to myself, I will take the opportunity (of going to the front early) when it came. That was my trump. If the others have it in them, then let them get me. It may seem that he was slowing towards the end, but make no mistake; this guy will last out even the longer trips. I am confident of his staying abilities.” I raised my eyebrows and left him to catch his breath. Shiraz Sunderji was on cloud nine, but he still carried that nervous look on his face. “Yes, I was cringing as I saw Sunlight getting closer. The winning post took eternity to arrive.

But I had full faith in Rajendra. He took the right call. He did the right things at the right time. Ocean And Beyond was in top condition to weather such a gruelling race and he prevailed splendidly in a testing race,” said Shiraz. On the deficit dwindling rapidly in the final 100 meters, Shiraz said, “I won’t be too concerned, his staying ability was tested and he won, didn’t he? There is scope for improvement and he will mature and get better. I am one-up now, if the others improve, so will Ocean And Beyond. I am sure he will do well in Mumbai as well.

He has achieved his first major target, the Nanoli Pune Derby. So he is right on course for the Indian Classics.” “We are very happy with the Derby outcome. After all, running one-two in a Derby is delightful. Both our horses have done us proud and now we have at least two of the top-line contenders for the Indian Classics. I always thought Ocean And Beyond is top quality and I am happy he proved me right. Kudos to Shiraz and Rajendra for their efforts,” said his gleeful part-owner Prem Tharani. Rajendra received a tremendous reception from the crowd as he came into the corridor of the paddock. Flowers were showered on him and the shouting couldn’t have got louder.

Ocean And Beyond, however, did understand the way we humans celebrate and threw a tantrum. He got restless and jittery and even bludgeoned a hapless photographer chasing the heroes to catch a perfect picture. Fortunately, the man just got a scratch or two and nothing more. The authorities should arrange for better protection before someone gets more seriously injured.

Even a horse could possibly be in peril from the extremely vocal crowd. But who can blame them, if their favourite horse and their favourite rider emerge victorious in an event as big as the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby!