Altaf Hussain trained Sultan Suleiman made a significant progress when staving off the challenge of the experienced Trouvaille to win the Gr 3 S A Poonawalla Million, a terms race for three-year-olds, the feature event of Sunday`s Pune races. Sultan Suleiman had come out of the ranks only 14 days ago and showed that he is a horse of immense merit when tackling the best available talent currently racing at Pune. Jockey Sandesh rode the lesser fancied runner with great finesse.
Victorious Sermon who had recorded two impressive wins at Bangalore including the thrashing he handed out to Gift of Grace who subsequently lost by a whisker against Derby winner Well Connected was obviously very superior to the field and was made the firm favourite. Victorious Sermon had last won 57 days ago and hadn`t been given a preparatory race and as such there was a suspicion that something could have gone in the intervening period. The fears that he may badly need a run came true when he failed to change gears as it were when the race came to the boil and weakened to finish a tame third.
Golden Quest who had recorded back to back wins went at a good clip in front with Sultan Suleiman handily placed ahead of Victorious Sermon and the others. Rounding the final turn, Sandesh pushed Sultan Suleiman to the front and the progeny of Arazan immediately established a good cushion which held the fancied runner in good stead. Trouvaille warmed up to the task in the final furlong and closed menacingly but Sandesh was able to get Sultan Suleiman to put his neck in front at the finish. Victorious Sermon ran on to take the third position. Hyderabad challenger Prince Valiant who had come with great expectations could only finish fourth, not posing a serious challenge.
Trevor Patel has been a big let down this Pune season. Often his rides give suspicion whether the jockey has his heart in the effort, but one must believe that a jockey of his talent and maturity is only going through a bad patch and that he will bounce back for the good of everyone. He rode a poor race on Flaming Martini which contributed to the rather easy success of Intense Stylist in the 1000 metres Inglenook Plate, a race for horses rated 60 to 86. From a handy third position, Flaming Martini fell back to the sixth position, several lengths behind Intense Stylist and King Khalil who were in the forward bunch. Flaming Martini had to circle round the field at the final bend and had a hopeless task on hand despite which he covered enormous ground to finish a length shy of the winner Intense Stylist. Shiraz Sunderji trained Intense Stylist who was coming back in distance was beautifully positioned by jockey C S Jodha and the favourite spurted clear in the final stages of the race to win from Flaming Martini, King Khalil and Joplin who disputed for the minor placings.
Trevor Patel also failed to drive home the heavily backed favourite Questina in the 1200 metres Villoo C Poonawalla Million, a terms race for three-year-olds. Pesi Shroff trained Copper Queen went on a start to finish mission and held off the late bid of Questina to win by half a length in the hands of jockey Yash Narredu. Knight Superior who paced with Copper Queen was unable to quicken in the manner expected and finished third.
The 1200 metres Rao Saheb Kedari Gold Trophy, a race for horses rated 20 to 46, saw the last start winner Enid Blyton being backed to the exclusion of the rest. The one horse which came in for big support was Super Mario who had the services of Trevor Patel who once again came short. Jockey Imran Khan took Pleiades on a start to finish mission and the long shot stayed put there to easily thwart the bid of Super Mario while Enid Blyton found bearings too late to be of any use. Last start winner Guarnerius ran way below expectations.
Noshir Cama trained Lorraine was one of the few horses to run true to expectations. Based on her last start effort, Lorraine was backed spiritedly to win the 1600 metres Serum Institute of India Trophy, a race for horses rated 40 to 66. Barack had the lead going into the final furlong, but Lorraine covered the leeway swiftly in the hands of jockey Yash Narredu and bounced clear close home for a comfortable win. Bakhtawar ran on to take the third position.
Sandesh drove out M K Jadhav trained Brazos to a comprehensive win in the 2400 metres Jefferson Plate, a race for horses rated 20 to 46. Sandesh sat still on the favourite till approaching the final bend and the favourite began to cover ground on those in front effortless and easily overwhelmed the front-running Dazzle N Daze to win by a widening margin of eight lengths. Jager Bomb was third.
Imran Khan`s commitment on She`s A Tiger who was sporting blinkers for the first time enabled the lesser fancied runner to prevail in a close finish over Star Silver in the1400 metres Great Secret Plate (Div I), a race for horses in the lowest category. Star Silver hit the front inside the final furlong getting a clear run along the rails while She`s A Tiger came into contention on the wide outside. After a close duel for supremacy, She`s A Tiger managed to neck out the front-runner in the closing strides of the race. The lower division of the race was a nightmare for the punters. So Splendid became a strong favourite only to drift out with Grand Chieftain coming for big support. Those who jumped on these horses were left in distress as both were nowhere in contention. Long shot Eternal Dancer from the stables of Rehanullah Khan won the race at the expense of other long shots Cristo Boss and Lilibeth ensuring that most pools would be carried forward. What transpired in the race was not a good advertisement for the fairness of the sport.
Brazos (A Sandesh up) winner of the Jefferson Plate
Lorraine (Yash Narredu up) winner of the Serum Institute Of India Trophy
Pleiades (A Imran Khan up) winner of the Rao Saheb Kedari Gold Trophy
Intense Stylist (C S Jodha up) winner of the Inglenook Plate
Copper Queen (Yash Narredu up) winner of the Villoo C. Poonawalla Million
Sultan Suleiman (A Sandesh up) winner of the S. A. Poonawalla Million (Gr.3)
She`s A Tiger (A Imran Khan up) winner of the Great Secret Plate (Div-I)
Eternal Dancer (N S Parmar up) winner of the Great Secret Plate (Div-II)