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The Season That Was - High Class Racing Amidst the Madness - By Tariq Vaidya

Posted on - 23 Apr 2014

The Season That Was… High Class Racing Amidst the Madness
By Tariq Vaidya
Electric!!! There really can’t be a better word to describe the Mumbai Race Meeting that is about to come to an end. High octane action on and off the racecourse ensured that there wasn’t a dull moment from November through April. 
Let’s start with the classic crop. Late last year, there were a host of contenders for the premier events including Alaindair, Jeremiah, Murioi, Starry Eyes, Mariinsky and Amelia.  In mid- December, P. Shroff’s Amelia and Mariinsky had strong credentials as they had won group races in other centres, but it was    C. D. Katrak’s Starry Eyes who was made favourite for the Deltin Casinos Indian 1000 Guineas (G1) on the strength of her easy win in the Morvi Trophy.  As the race unfolded, P. Trevor on Mariinsky grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck and with 2 furlongs to go bounded clear and won very impressively to give champion trainer Shroff another classic win. Amelia was travelling ever so smoothly till S. Zervan was unseated halfway down the straight.  She later went on to win the Dr S.C. Jain Sprinters Championship (G2) before annexing the G1 Super Mile in Hyderabad, beating Mariinsky on both occasions and so it’s anybody’s guess as to whether or not the best filly on the day won the Guineas.
The Colts equivalent, also sponsored by Deltin Casinos was all about the Dubawi colt with a magnificent head, Murioi, owned by Dr. MAM Ramaswamy.  He had won his prep race giving weight and a beating to the Pune Derby runner up, Circle of Life. Champion jockey Sandesh was entrusted with the mount on the second favourite, the dual classic winner in Bangalore, Alaindair, and his decision to ride Alaindair prominently, as he had done in Bangalore, proved to be his undoing. What transpired was an emphatic win for last year’s Gr.1, Poonawalla Breeders Multi-Million winner, Murioi in the hands of B. Sreekanth.  After a brief lull, multi-classic winning trainer S. Ganapathy was back in the limelight once again in Mumbai. 
 After Mariinksy ran a creditable third in the 2000 Guineas, her connections chose to sidestep the Indian Oaks, sponsored by Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla in memory of his late wife, Villoo. This was supposed to be a match between Shroff’s Circle of Life, who had finished second to Mariinsky in the Guineas and Starry Eyes, who had finished third. But David Allan had other ideas and rode what was arguably the ride of the season on Isn’t She Special, owned by Capt. Jamshed Appoo. Trained by the wily S. Padmanabhan (@racing_sp) at Bangalore, this filly was freely available at 15-1 in the ring. Allan took her to the front when the gates opened and lulled her into a proverbial slumber in the back straight only to wake her up when heads turned for home. Richard Hughes (@hughesiejockey) on Circle of Life was waiting to pounce and had Isn’t She Special in her sights. However, by the time he got her going it was too late and the vigorously ridden Isn’t She Special had seized the moment.
The Blue Riband, the Signature Indian Derby sponsored by Dr. Vijay Mallya’s (@TheVijayMallya) Mcdowell was supposed to be all about Murioi and the Shroff trained dual regional Derby winner Jeremiah, who had subsequently done no harm to his form by beating older horses in Class 1.  14-10 was the best odds one could get on Murioi with Jeremiah quoted at 38-10. Murioi had toyed with his rivals in the traditional prep, the Ruia Cup in a very quick time and Irishman C.D Hayes (@chrishayes24) had been flown in for the ride. Zervan once again got the leg-up on Jeremiah and the grey looked impressive in the paddock.
Veteran jockey Y.S. Srinath who had won so many big races but never the Indian Derby was asked to take the mount on the Guineas runner up Alaindair, who for some reason was quoted at 16-1 by the bookies. As heads turned for home Isn’t She Special and Jeremiah couldn’t find anything more and Murioi darted into the lead. Just then, Srinath roused up Alaindair and went after his target. With a furlong to go he had taken over the running and strode on majestically to the wire to give his connections, Dr. Nevill Devlaliwalla (@Nevill_), Gaurav Sethi (@gauravsethi23), Ameeta Mehra and young, upcoming trainer, Altamaash Ahmed a day they will never forget. 
Alaindair, by first season sire Multidimensional, re-affirmed his superiority in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup at Hyderabad. This was his 4th G1; quite an achievement! Sadly, Murioi met with a fatal injury in that race.
The premier event for juveniles, the Poonawalla Breeders’ Multi-Million (G1) was probably the most exciting race of the season with four runners being hailed as the winner with a furlong to go. First Karthik Ganapathy’s War Command looked like he had won the race before veering out violently. Then M. Narredu’s Quasar with nephew Suraj (@Surajsn1) astride looked like it would get there. Meanwhile, Narredu’s other colt, the hotly fancied son of Holy Roman Emperor, Be Safe, who had previously sauntered home in the Kunigal Stud Breeders Produce Stakes (G3) devoured ground on the outside but ultimately it was the Katrak trained Gool S. Poonawalla Million (G3) winner Shivalik Storm, a good looking son of Dancing Forever who burst through the middle and emerged victorious under Sandesh. These horses all look capable of winning many big races this year (Quasar has already gone on to win the G3 Shapoorji Pallonji Breeders’ Juvenile Colts’ Championship) as do Tiger Tops, a Shroff trained filly who won the Forbes Breeders’ Juvenile Fillies Championship (G3) emphatically and Joshua, a Bezan Chenoy trained colt who won the Provogue-AGP Multi-Million in great style on debut.
Narredu’s Supreme Star was by far and away the best older horse of the season, winning the R.N. Kanga Trophy, the Goculdas Million and then the Maharaja Sir Harisinghji Trophy (G3). However, one of the best performances of the season was that of the Irfan Ghatala trained outstation challenger Toroloco, who gave 12 kgs. and wore down the exquisitely bred To The Manor Born in the Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Eclipse Stakes of India (G2). The Imtiaz Sait trained Keukenhof, who had previously run third in the Indian Oaks, belonging to Vivek Jain’s (@vivekjain58) father and his partners won the C.N. Wadia Gold Cup (G2) in great style giving Multidimensional yet another group win. That old man Nefyn won the Saldanha Million in Mumbai before landing the G1 Sprinters Cup in Hyderabad and the H. J. Antia trained Heatwave, owned by the flamboyant Riyad Oomerbhoy (@riyadoomerbhoy) was the only horse to win 4 races this season thereby winning an added bonus of Rs. 1 Million.
This year was the 130th year anniversary of our racecourse. We had events, fashion shows, brunches, charity auctions and many CSR driven activities on our beautiful track. We entertained whilst having a lot of fun ourselves. Crowds kept coming through the turnstiles in large numbers and despite many hurdles and the odd controversy, our quality of racing was of the highest standards. The launch of Green Circle, our initiative that professes sustainability and urges us to be conscious of the environment, met with a great response from the press.
Racing now shifts to Bangalore, but there is a lot to look forward to when racing comes back to the RWITC (@rwitcmumbai), to Pune, arguably the prettiest racecourse in the country, in the last week of July.  Dreams, hopes, aspirations will all be built up over the summer. Many will be shattered, but some will be realized. That’s just what our wonderful sport is all about.  
(Tariq Vaidya is a Steward of the Club and a Member of the Marketing Sub-Committee)
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the author's personal views.)

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