Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mark Of Gibraltar Beaten

Jockey Prakash seems to have lost his zest for riding. In recent times, he has been seen in poor light on many top-class horses. He has lost races in Mumbai and Bangalore which he would have comfortably won if he had been riding in his old form. Prakash at his best used to be a treat to watch.
Prakash in his current form is a pale shadow of the champion that we have known for the last so many years. It is difficult to pinpoint the reason for this sudden change. I am sure it cannot be the easy rides he is invited to come and partner in Chennai week after week, a process in which he does not have to really perform to win the first five races of the day. It cannot be a physical thing, because he is still young and extremely fit. It is perhaps a state of his mind wherein he is unhappy with a foreign rider taking all the plums on horses, which were rightfully his rides. It may also be the suspension handed out to him by the stewards of the RWITC. Whatever be the reasons, the fact remains that the situation is getting to be tough for his many ardent supporters who wager heavily on horses ridden by this talented rider. It is hoped that he shall soon overcome the temporary loss of form, and start performing again at a level expected of him by the racing public all over the country.

The feature event on Friday was the well-endowed Karnataka Racehorse Owners Association Trophy, a sprint race for 3-year old horses. This was a terms race with winners expected to carry the standard penalties. A small field of five runners faced the starter, with the betting confined to two horses. Both Mark of Gibraltar and Alcmene were impressive winners in maiden company, but the style of running made Mark Of Gibraltar an obvious choice and thus he was installed as the shortest priced favourite in the season. Appu sent Music Forever to the front with Srinath ridden Alcmene in close second position, while Prakash on the favourite was seen travelling the widest of three as they straightened for home. Alcmene took over from a tiring Music Forever and soon found Mark Of Gibraltar coming with giant strides on her outside. The two of them were engaged in a duel for a while before the favourite got the upper hand and seemed to be getting the better of Alcmene on whom Srinath had stopped using the whip. The last 50 metres of the race saw Srinath pull out all stops as he punched Alcmene and goaded her to put everything into it. She responded beautifully and in the process caught Prakash napping on Mark Of Gibraltar at the all-important end. This was another race that Prakash may have easily won when he was in good form.

The Chatrapathi Cup was a class II race over seven furlongs and saw big money coming on Appu-ridden Swift Fire. This gelding had run a couple of times this season and had finished on the board on both occasions. He had run with better-class horses and therefore finding today's set a bit easier, the connections backed him down from 5/2 to even money. Chris Hayes took Carabinieri to the front and seemed like spoiling the party as Appu was seen frantically whipping Swift Fire in second position. Carabinieri had a couple of lengths to spare at the distance post but suddenly started to shorten his strides. To the relief of his numerous supporters, Swift Fire went ahead and scored from a late finishing Mucho, who edged out the front-runner from second place.

The race for maiden 3-year olds saw a very average lot of youngsters face the starter. Based on her breeding, Lady Banks (Diffident-Mary Bankes) with Prakash in the saddle was installed as the half-money favourite. Here again, Prakash was seen struggling to keep her on an even keel and was lucky to nail the early leader Little Splendour on the post. Blushing Beam was sporting the same colours as the winner but was ridden by morning work jockey M Ravi. Had Ravi decided to be more enterprising on Blushing Beam, the story would have been totally different. For the record, Blushing Beam finished a close third and shall be too good to miss in her next start.

The class III race over a staying trip of a mile and a quarter saw Sontag Etoile being installed as an on-money favourite with the other five runners available at eights and over. Jagadeesh took Saptashwa to the front and surprisingly lasted out to win from a late finishing Van De Star. The latter was not given a good ride by apprentice John who decided to keep him in last position before skirting the field and coming widest of all into the straight. The game horse made up a lot of ground but was shy by a length at the winning post. The favourite Sontag Etoile plodded on to be a close third.

The last race of the day saw the Mangalorkar-trained Surprise Package emerge as the easiest winner of the day. Although drawn on the outside, jockey Aadesh rode a neat race as he took a good early position and rode a well-balanced race to win comfortably from Shenandoah, Crackerjack and Lighnin Blues.

The first two races of the day were for horses in the lowest class and saw Royal Flinn and Lago Vista earning their corn bills. The latter won easier than the verdict and can be placed to win again in her present form. The short seven event card was quite competitive with no professional able to score more than once.

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