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PAST THE POST - A Review of the Pune Derby 2018 (Grade 1) - By Cyrus Naterwalla

Posted on - 17 Oct 2018

PAST THE POST A Review of the Pune Derby 2018 (Grade 1)
- By Cyrus Naterwalla
In spite of the smallest field since Phenomenale in 2008, it looked a competitive affair on paper with stamina doubts about some of the leading contenders and some potential improvers. Heading the betting was the strapping 3 year old gelding Desperado who had come with a tremendous reputation from Bangalore, had won his last 3 starts on the trot and had decimated Class III opposition in his warm up race clocking a Class I timing in the process. He was a final entry for the race as was the filly Knotty Ash who had finished 3rd in the Mysore Derby to Mr. Handsome and was the only runner to have already have traversed the 2000M trip. Heading the local challenge were the S.A. Poonawalla Multi Million winner Excellent and the 3rd place finisher that day Pioneer who had finished 2 lengths adrift that day conceding 2 kilos, had not been given the best of rides on that occasion and was more likely to stay the additional 400M. There was also an unknown quantity in the shape of the got abroad grey Bushtops who had made every one sit up and take notice of his smashing reappearance win over 1400M and who was also expected to stay the trip on pedigree. The bookmakers however all seemed to plump for Desperado who opened the odds on favourite with Excellent and Pioneer quoted at 5/1 and Bushtops at 6s. In the paddock, Excellent appeared to look a little light and having lost some condition while Desperado while looking well also seemed to have lost a bit of the sheen on his coat. In contrast Pioneer looked extremely well and was possibly the paddock pick along with Knotty Ash who also looked extremely fit and well.
The field of 7 broke to an even dispatch from the 2000M barrier with Knotty Ash setting out on a pillar to post mission and striking the front from Cavarozzi moving up quickly on the outside to dispute the lead with Desperado being restrained in 3rd and being chased a couple of lengths away by Excellent who had settled well in 4th. 3 lengths away came Pioneer in 5th with Truly Epic 2nd last and Bushtops held up at the rear of the field by A. Sandesh. The settled to race in single file at a good clip with Cavarozzi the new leader to Knotty Ash in 2nd spot, Desperado racing a close 3rd with Excellent right on his heels. Pioneer and Truly Epic were also well in touch with a 3 length break to Bushtops. Cavarozzi began to be pushed along passing the 600 as Knotty Ash was breathing down his neck on the outside with Desperado and Excellent both moving up strongly to be in contention and Truly Epic also covering ground widest of all to make a line of three. Pioneer was biding his time on the fence a length or so away with Bushtops also taking closer order. Knotty Ash was first into the straight with Desperado in hot pursuit, Excellent making his bid on the outside and Truly Epic challenging widest of all with Pioneer hard at work on the inside a length or so away. Knotty Ash refused to give up her lead but shifted off the rail allowing Pioneer to slip through along the inside, Desperado trying hard to draw level with the filly and Excellent giving everything widest of all. In a thrilling finish, Pioneer on the inside, Knotty Ash in the centre and Desperado on the outside all three flashed past the post locked together. The camera showed that Pioneer, under a power packed finish from P. Trevor had gotten up along the inside to steal the race by a short neck from Knotty Ash who held on valiantly for 2nd. Desperado was a short head away in 3rd with a length and three quarters back to Excellent who ended up a gallant 4th. Truly Epic weakened to finish 5th with Bushtops running way below expectations and never able to land a blow, ending up a distant 6th.
While Pioneer clearly had the form on paper and was expected to stay better, he was given an inspired ride by Trevor and was lucky to get the opening on the rail at the perfect time. Knotty Ash ran a cracker in defeat and may have won if she had been able to stay on the rail. Desperado, who normally likes to bowl along freely in front seemed to be overly restrained by Arshad Alam in the early stages which may have hampered his performance. He did not show his usual powerful turn of foot and may have been found wanting in the finish as well. He can probably be forgiven this run and looked to stay the trip. Excellent did his best but probably found his stamina sapped in the final furlong although he was only 1 lengths behind the 3rd horse. He should get a well deserved rest now.

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