Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Oasis Star sizzles in the Sprinters' Cup

In a chat moments after the Sprinters' Cup presentation was made, Jockey Srinath confirmed what had been apparent in the early part of the eight-event card. "When I won the third race with Imperial Gate, the inescapable conclusion I came to was that speed was dominant and the track was favouring horses who got out alertly. Finding that opening on the rail was a good break but as it turned out, Imperial Gate would have won anyway. He was firing on all cylinders."

The subject of the conversation changed to Oasis Star. "People believe that Oasis Star is effective when ridden off the pace. It is true but this filly can do anything you ask of her. She can leave and get position and race close to the lead. That is what she did today. The plan was to stay close to the front-runners. Sitting third gave me the kind of trip I wanted. It was a question of when I wanted her to go. When I did, she took off. After this win, there is no doubt that she is the best sprinter in India."

I had a word or two with CD Katrak, the winning trainer. "Yes, we had to stay out of trouble. It was not a small field. When Srinath left and was right behind the top two, I was thrilled. When that breakaway happened turning for home, there was concern. When she got going, there was no stopping her. It is great to train her, she has given us proof she is the best sprinter. We wanted a clear run and jockey Srinath did a great job."

When prompted as he returned to the unsaddling enclosure about Oasis Star's chances on Sunday, Srinath was emphatic. "I fancy her chances," he said.

Woman On Top did get a call or two from the announcer but it was evident it was a lost cause for her soon after the start. She had poor position and was not a factor at any point. If there was an excuse, I am sure we will know about it.

Rhapsidion Snow put some cheer in trainer Padmanabhan's camp. A firm favourite despite Wonder Smile's strong credentials, Rhapsidion Snow, was receiving chunks of weight from her key adversary. Danny Grant tracked the pace-setter, closed the gap to draw even in the final turn and paced away. Wonder Smile could not keep up in the last 400 metres. It was a washout.

With Wonder Smile and Woman On Top failing, my last hope for the afternoon lay with Arabian Knight in the 3000-metre Stayers' Cup. In an overpowering show of speed and stamina, the Jaggy Dhariwal-trained four year-old won from the word 'Go.' Samuel Fargeat took command at once and kept a clear margin down the backside. Maximise and Danny Grant delivered a stern challenge as Arabian Knight made that turn for the run to the box. The duel did not last for more than a moment or two. Arabian Knight, shaken up by jockey Fargeat, responded with alacrity as if saying, "ah, ah, not today," and ran on to win easily. The time of 3 minutes 10.57 seconds is the fastest time recorded in Hyderabad for the Stayers' Cup..

The affable Dhariwal is articulate. "This horse has not had luck. Ability is one thing but you need to have luck in this game. I am happy Arabian Knight put it all together today."

I asked trainer Dhariwal if going to the front was his plan. "I wanted him to have an incident-free trip because he has had a list of excuses this season. I was convinced that 3,000 metres would not pose a problem. I had targeted him for the Bangalore Derby. However, all along we had the Stayers' Cup in view. I felt he must be given a chance to prove himself and he did it in no uncertain terms. He came up right and delivered."

Zeyn Mirza, Racing Manager for Dr Vijay Mallya, is a man who is not at a loss for words. "Arabian Knight set a decent gallop. We wanted Samuel Fargeat to leave and get covered up if someone else wanted the lead. There were no takers and Samuel was able to go along pressure-free. It was a record-breaking performance."

"Not going in the Bangalore Derby was, perhaps, a blessing in disguise. We had time to prepare."

I asked Mr Mirza why Samuel Fargeat was chosen. “Our retained jockey, Chris Hayes had to go back to Ireland. Samuel was free and we asked him," he said.

Asked about future plans for Arabian Knight, Mirza answered, "He needs rest and will get it. Bangalore summer meeting has some terms races that will suit him. We will look at our options. It is now clear that Arabian Knight is ready to scale new heights."

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