Captain Cook, the top-rated sprint-specialist, chose to bounce back to form on his way to having a narrow measure of the Monsoon Derby winner, Sana, in the prestigious race, the 1,400m Hilliard Cup, the feature event on Saturday, the opening day of the winter season. Incidentally, both horses hailed from trainer Bharath Singh`s stable. The afternoon also witnessed Bharath`s other Classic hope, a colt named Gryffindor (C. Alford), performing poorly in the 1,200m Ming Dynasty Handicap, thanks to his fall during the saddling time. The afternoon, however, belonged to trainers Shafiq Khan, Manvendra Singh and jockey Hindu Singh who notched up a brace of wins apiece in the eight-event card.
The five-year-old Captain Cook (Arshad Alam-up) has had a poor monsoon season, because of ‘guttural infection`, but the Classy filly Sana (Dashrath Singh), though was going over the slated trip, far too short to her liking, has been on the up since her Bangalore (summer) sojourn, and was considered as home and dry.
Dashrath, on his part made no mistake on Sana in the race. He had the Multidimensional filly settled right behind the long time leader, Flanker (Afzal Khan) and also sent Sana into the winning lead 300m from home. However, the late run of Captain Cook, in the death quarter-furlong, on the wide out of the field, brought about the fall of the 6/10 hot favourite.
Sana, was out for a preparatory run before the first Classic of the season about three weeks from now. She lost by a long neck, yet she keeps alive hopes of doing well in the targeted terms race.
Gryffondor`s (Christopher Alford`s) was a different story. The filly had a fall during the saddling time, and the eye-witnesses vouched it as a nasty one, prompting bookmakers to expand the odds of the 8/10 favourite to 6/4. The plight of the Lucifer Sam son reflected in the race run as he graced the wrong-end of the field, throughout the journey, after a level start. In fact, Alford dropped hands 250m from home after flogging a dead-horse. Surprisingly, neither the trainer nor the jockey – upon reaching the start – cared to seek the veterinary-opinion. Stewards, however, reacted soon after the race, ordering an enquiry into the entire observation. Trainer Jasbir Singh`s 8/1 shot, Aileen, led from the start to win narrowly from the Javed Khan-trained Rustler (C.S. Jodha) who finished late on the scene.
The Javed-Jodha combinations, had also faltered early in the afternoon when their heavily fancied charge, Carpe Noctem, had gone down to Shafiq Khan`s Ahlan (Mohit Singh) in the upper division of the 1,200m Adelina Handicap, for horses in the lowest class. Leads kept changing in the race but trainer Shafiq Khan`s 7/2 fancied runner Ahlan (Mohit Singh) had her say in the final 150m of the race.
Khan was back in the winners` enclosure after about 90 minutes when his 8/1 chance Be A Star (app. Ranidan Singh) revealed his form that won him a race on the day one of the monsoon season. The horse was held back till a furlong from home as leads kept on changing until 150m from home.
The lower division of the Adelina Handicap, was, on the other hand, closely contested with Alford`s having to try every trick up his sleeves to guide Raunak Banerji`s 4/10 hot favourite, Prolific Visit, to a neck victory over Vikash Jaiswal`s long shot I Me N Myself and Farley Rodrigues` Major Colours (app. P. Vikram).
Trainer Vijay Singh`s recent acquisition, Volantis (S. John) found the going easy despite his top-weight of 60-1/2-kg, in the 1,600m Topspin Handicap. The 9/4 favourite was also ridden in a check behind the early leaders, City Heights (app. P. Tajeshwar), Mizuno (Hindu) and Dark Gold (Ashhad Abbar), but covered the ground rapidly when asked for an effort to easily beat Shafiq`s Dark Gold.
Trainer Manvendra Singh`s stock got in to the winning mood, albeit late. The crafty schooler was ably helped by Hindu Singh to coast home on Fortune Express in the 1,100m Irma La Douce Handicap. The 5/4 favourite was ridden in a check till a furlong from home to overhaul Simran`s Choice (Vnay Jaiswal) and Shivalik Story (John).
The jockey-trainer combinations struck back half-an-hour later when their less fancied Tiberon, walked on the scene late to claim the 1,100m Easter Parade Handicap.