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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Oasis Star

Top Class performance by the Naval Sky Divers and enthralling music went hand in hand with the Mumbai races on the SC Jain's Sprinters' Million Day at the Mahalaxmi race course.

The day began on a steady note as Dynamic Cat (Grant) made light work of the top weight (61 kg) he was carrying and posted a convincing victory to claim the Western India Bookmakers Association Trophy. Grant, who had partnered the colt in his last start victory over Casual Look, produced an ‘action replay’ more or less in the similar fashion, but this time encountered little resistance from his rivals. Pacific Zone led them into the straight, and once Dynamic Cat strode on to the scene, he was in complete command and stretched away from the rest. Victor Ivanov looked a pale shadow of his last start and did not raise any hope whatsoever. Amberogio (Chinoy) improved to finish second, pegging back Pacific Zone.

Artillery (Alam) fired finally and earned his winning bracket. Artillery was very restless in the gates but fortunately was alert at the jump. Hymn's Angel reared up as the gates flung open and lost a lot of ground. In the straight, Grey Storm led till 400 m where from Artillery took over. Tullamore (Ranjane) moved very late on the wide outside and failed to get past Artillery. Phi did well to finish third.

Classic did not have to sweat a lot for his victory in the third race of the day. Sitting well up, Classic (Alford) was just niggled to take over just past the 400 m and only about 200 m did Alford need to take out his whip. Astro Boy (Riyaz) could have done with better handling and had to be content with the third spot behind Arabian Power (SS Rathore). Tribal Warrior (Appu) who is no serious contention all through warmed up late to fill the frame. The last named is getting ready and needs watching over an extra furlong.

Englehart (Tograllu) produced a spirited final furlong burst to easily put it across Councilofthegods (Rajendra). Star Always (Appu) had every chance of making a race of it after being prominent in the straight but she just could not find her feet and faded away. Flames of Fire was always looking to get a clear run and his failure to do so may have cost him heavily. Oyster Princess (Nirmal) who kept Englehart company in the rear for the most part, saw the latter draw away from him and was ridden all out to get into the place money close home.

Red Indian (Rajendra) was badly affected by the erratic run of Wild Temper who drifted all the way across the turf. Leading from the start, Wild temper (Alam) was still in charge past the 400 m when Red Indian joined alongside. Just when it appeared that Red Indian would go ahead, Wild Temper started drifting out and continued to do so all the way taking Red Indian along. By the time Rajendra could take corrective measures, Simply Smashing came on the scene and pipped Rajendra to the second place. This could be the reason why the jockey did not opt for taking an objection as he would still not get the race. Wild Temper, thus, was fortunate to keep the race despite not keeping a straight course and taking Red Indian's ground. Simply Smashing came up late and is the one to note. Mickey Mantle was caught between horses, however, didn’t quicken when he did get out and finished off the frame.

Casual Look (Merchant) suffered due to the rider's insistence on poking through the front running Sepia Tone and the challenger Clean Sweep (Kishore). Had he had the presence of mind to immediately switch on the outside, he may have made it considering that Casual Look closed in towards the finish. Merchant tried to get the race in the stewards’ room, but the winner was in no way to blame for the incident and the objection was overruled.

Liverpool (Neeraj) attempted a start-to-finish essay that got aborted at the distance post. Celtic Charm (Srinath) came up with a sustained bid to ward off a serious threat from Il Divo (Rajendra) who had to be switched out of a troubled passage. The late charge of the Shroff ward was never going to be enough after Celtic Charm was ridden hard to hold on. Il Divo, however, looked good enough to make amends very soon.

Srinath missed out on a hattrick when he opted out riding Pure Devotion due to his reporting ill. Grant who replaced Srinath guided Pure Devotion to a hard fought victory on the post. Xiamen led the field home hotly chased by Adallia who then led briefly only to surrender to Kalpavruksha (Belose). Black Hussar tried to make an impression but failed to quicken. Pure Devotion suddenly pounced upon them all and caught up with Kalpavruksha on the post. Czech (TS Jodha) did exceedingly well to come from a long way back to snatch the place money. If he overcomes his starting problems, Czech will be in the reckoning as he displayed good finishing effort.

Among the professionals, trainers Imtiaz Sait, CD Katrak, Narendra Lagad and jockeys Srinath, Grant and Alam scored a double each.

The Indian Navy performed an aerial display and the Naval band played on the lawns/paddock. Vice Admiral J.S. Bedi was personally present to give away the prizes. The Fantasie Stakes created a huge ambience. Ms Zeba Kohli put up attractive stalls with her array of products and had chocolate samplings. Huge hampers were given away as prizes to the winning team.

The Dr SC Jain Million had a record field. The Jain family invited leading models Sandhya Shetty and Aryan Vaid as guests. There were several other models as part of the entourage. Ms Jesse, a regular visitor, won the Ganesha. The best-dressed male prize went to Rajesh Kohli, husband of Zeba Kohli, who was nattily attired in a linen suit. The best-dressed lady went to Aarti Surendranath, a regular on the society circuit. The Jain family presented beautiful trophies to the winning owner, trainer, jockey. Managing Director of Deutsche Private Wealth Management was present to give away The Deutsche Bank Dash trophy to Mr. Shapoor Mistry.

Oasis Star (Senure – Gambaru Etsu) overcame a nasty check soon after the start, then had to encounter a wall of horse in front, forcing her to skirt around the bunch who were already in top gear in the straight, and only in the final 100 metres did she unleash a sensational run-in to zip past some renowned sprinters in full flight, and clinch the SC Jain Sprinters Million (GR-2) with an awesome display of raw speed.

In my preview on the race, I had speculated that the course record for 1200 m would be under threat. The only reason the record stays intact in the name of Persephone (1m – 10.54 secs), I conclude, is the fact that Oasis Star was subjected to a near collision near the 1000 m mark by Lady One (Aadesh). This relegated the filly to the second last position in a strong 17-horse field. In the straight too, Oasis Star had to be maneuvered between horses and only got a clear passage past the distance post. That she clocked a nippy 1m-10.72, just split seconds off the record, despite the impeding run, leads me to believe that she would have clocked a better timing otherwise and my plucky prophecy would have been spot on.

Pampered Princess showed that she is the quickest starter and led the field, Agha, Atmosphere, Rejuvenite, Escravos were close in a huddle, not far behind were the rest Oyster Cove and Oasis Star in the rear and they only had the slow starter Perfect Attraction behind them till the turn. In the straight, Pampered Princess was making a race of it, Atmosphere was wilting, Rejuvenite was toiling to keep up and Evatina and Escravos were being pressed hard. Pampered Princess was desperately wishing for the winning post to rescue her and inside 100 m of the post Oasis Star conquered the opposition flying past as though the rest were pedestrian.

Jockey Srinath rode a commendable race, kept his calm and showed complete faith in the filly's ability. He never hurried her and coxed her to give her best when it mattered most and the scintillating response from Oasis Star exhibited her class and she is the one they all have to beat in the Sprinters' Cup at Hyderabad early March.

Enaski, Escravos, Oyster Cove, Pampered Princess, Evatina and Rejuvenite all were together in a blanket finish for the minor placings. Of this lot, Oyster Cove covered a lot of ground and should come good in the near future. Enaski was the surprise package and Pampered Princess a determined fighter.

It was a colourful day and the turnout was encouraging even though it followed the Derby weekend.

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