Racing picks up steam at Pune
The first full weekend racing at Pune got off to a good start, with two millions and big fields making for attractive racing.
Sunny skies on Sunday brought smiles to the Club’s newest sponsor, Khushro Jalnawala, who pulled in a strong guest list to watch the first million of the season. The race was named in memory of his mother and his father, Col. Khusro Jalnawala was present to give away a spectacular gold trophy. Khushro, now a prominent owner in Western India, was taken in by the aura of the day and not only presented a gold medallion to the winning horse (as is done for human athletes) but proudly announced that he would upgrade this race to a multi million next year! That an 18 horse field contested the maiden million was a further tribute to the success of the inaugural running of the race.
The time honoured F.D.Wadia Trophy, Grade 2, the traditional Derby prep race at Pune, was the day’s highlight, with an over 2 million purse up for grabs. Fittingly contested by a strong 11 runner field, the race had a controversial end, as rank outsider Su Chaliyo won the race in the Stewards room. Even though the trainer/ owner of the horse chose not to object, the Stipendiary Stewards chose to call for an enquiry and awarded the race to the Faisal Abbas trainee who had run a close second, after a lengthy deliberation by the Stewards. The Poonawalla Breeders’Multi Million winner, Beautiful Stranger ran fifth and appeared to be in need of the run.
The coming weekend is one of Pune’s busiest, with the PRA Independence Cup, now re-christened a Million, holding centre stage. The Independence Cup traditionally attracts a big Pune attendance with several visitors from Mumbai, who mark this weekend for Pune, each year. Rustom Bharucha of PRA not only confirmed a three year sponsorship for this historic race but agreed to up the race to a million, making it the country’s richest handicap- and that too for Class IV horses. A great gesture to boost prize money across the board. The appetizer on Saturday will be the Grade 3 Eve Champion Trophy, sponsored again by the Paranjape Group with also 1 million in guaranteed stakes. The terms of the race strongly favour Native Knight, who by virtue of only placing in the Classics escapes without a penalty and he should finally come up trumps by an overdue win in a Group race.
We can expect some fanfare as an Army band will play the National Anthem and patriotic numbers on Sunday and trumpets will herald the visit of His Excellency, The Governor of Maharashtra, who will present The Governor’s Gold Cup on Saturday.