It was a spine-chilling finish and Diego Rivera, the 6-4 favourite, eked out a win over Splendid Surprise in the Grade I Major P K Mehra Memorial Super Mile, the supporting event in the Invitation card at Malakpet Racecourse on Sunday.
Bet confidently on the basis of his recent win in Mumbai, Diego Rivera was given an astute steer by jockey Mallesh Narredu. The favourite was held up and lay, at no time, farther than sixth. Splendid Surprise, sent out a picture by trainer Mahesh, was in striking range. As the contenders and the pretenders were being separated, Splendid Surprise took an inside route in the lane. He was travelling very well and to the dismay of jockey Christopher, Splendid Surprise’s momentum was checked. Mallesh Narredu, having waited with Diego Rivera long enough, pushed the green button and the response was striking. He drew even with Christopher and Splendid Surprise and a combat ensued. For a fleeting moment, Splendid Surprise may have held the upper hand. Mallesh dug deep and Diego Rivera had another gear to spare. A head bob separated the two and the Pesi Shroff-trained Diego Rivera had won.. The time was 1 37.09 seconds for 1600 metres.
Jockey Mallesh Narredu is a breath of fresh air. He is cerebral. We talked at length. “In riding, timing is everything. Diego Rivera idles on the lead. My major concern was not to hit the front with some running left. I had to let our momentum, once I let my mount loose, carry us to the post. That was the key. Once I got going, I was confident I would get there though Splendid Surprise gave a bigger fight than I expected. Diego Rivera is in excellent form.”
Mallesh who tries to analyze why and how things happen, spoke about decision-making and riding his mounts in keeping with individual propensities. “There is so much to learn that I learn a thing or two every time I go out on the track.”
Pesi Shroff, as dapper-looking as a horse trainer can get, talked about Diego Rivera’s climb to the top. “He has had problems. His potential was not realized. In recent weeks, he was finding his stride. His last win in Mumbai, especially, was a big confidence-builder. I did not have a good view of the race but Mallesh made the right moves from what I know. Diego Rivera can go longer. As he gets older, he’s getting stronger. He knows when he takes to the track, he has a job at hand and races accordingly. If the heat has no adverse impact on him and he comes out of today’s race in good order, I will find a target for him in Mumbai.”
Trainer Mahesh, disappointed as he was missing a big prize narrowly, was upbeat. “That interference cost me the race. He was quickening spiritedly and would have gone into an unassailable lead. It’s all in racing.”
Oasis Star won the K N Dhunjibhoy and Dolly Dhunjibhoy Million by a five-length margin in the splendid time of 1 23.11 seconds. Oasis Star went up to 11/10. The penalty she had been subject after the win in Saturday’s Sprinter’ Cup, must have weighed heavily on the fans. Jockey Srinath lay farther back than he may have liked. Ruben Star led a merry dance and opened up with 400 metres to run. Once shown some racetrack and having received the ‘go ahead’ signal from Srinath, Oasis Star put her telling stride into action. Concern turned glee as Oasis Star raced past Ruben Star in emphatic fashion.
Winning two races in two days is an accomplishment of enormous significance. Jockey Srinath had four winners over the weekend. Trainer C D Katrak is to be commended for a job well done.
Samuel Fargeat had two winners. B Prakash rode a pair of winners. Frankie Dettori made three visits to India in four weeks. He failed to connect. Richard Hughes made his presence felt with a winning ride on Autonomy in the Poonawalla Million.
Richard Hughes goes back to England. He has a ride or two on Wednesday at Lingfield on the all-weather surface.
I made the acquaintance with Samuel Fargeat. He is well-spoken and polite to the core. “I realized speed was dominant. That is why I took Arabian Knight to the lead. I knew a long way from home that the race was over. I am leaving India end of March. Please say hello to me when you come to Paris.”
I will be in Paris on June 1 for the Prix du Jockey Club which is the French name for the French Derby.
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