The withdrawal of Selfie Star who probably could have run as a favourite, the 2000 metres Highland Rule Trophy, a race for horses rated 60 to 79, the feature event of Friday`s Pune races, had an open look about it with the three contenders left in the race having an equal chance of pulling it off. In keeping with this expectation, the three horses went past the post locked together with the horse which was least preferred Square Moon surviving by the skin of his teeth to win from Oriana. Another short neck behind was Frivolous.
The paucity of runners is telling on the quality of racing programme though on this occasion, the three runners that lined up for the race did provide value for money. Oriana who had won the Calcutta Oaks was the favourite ahead of stablemate Frivolous who has the habit of losing ground at the start which has seen him fritter away many winning opportunities. Square Moon had often performed above expectations in the five wins that he had recorded in his career but he hadn`t seen the winning post for 544 days. Jockey Dashrath Singh took the eight-year-old Square Moon on a start to finish mission followed by Oriana and Frivolous. From the final furlong onwards, these horses raced in a line with nothing separating them. At the finish, Square Moon who fought on resolutely had managed to prevail by a short head over Oriana with Frivolous who was in better behaviour this time from the gates finishing a close third. Since all the three horses commanded a price in the betting ring, the race kept the punters active and those who didn`t win at least got a run for the money!
The first race of the day, the 1400 metres Floods of Fortune Plate, a race for horses rated 20 to 46, saw favourite Laburnum from the stables of trainer Sanjay Kolse flop miserably. The price drift on the favourite perhaps was an indication that the favourite would not be capable of carrying the weight of expectations. Lesser fancied Star Comrade who raced in about the third position till turning for home, measured the front running Principessa and Airmax inside the final furlong and stormed ahead to land the spoils. Principessa managed to keep the third place ahead of Airmax who held off the late flourish of Sylvester. Laburnum was in trouble from the start and finished dismally. Star Comrade had run more than 20 lengths behind Arrowfield in his last run 21 days ago in the same class and this win was coming after a wait of 699 days.
Narendra Lagad trained Impala who hadn`t won for more than a year came in for noticeable support to end up at 5 to 1 in the 1000 metres Grey Area Plate, a race for horses rated 20 to 46. The race had another on money favourite from the stables of trainer Sanjay Kolse performing like a dud gulping precious money of the punters who believe in the virtues of such horses. Dashrath Singh had Impala in front from the word `go` with the favourite Ms Boss in the chase but it was clear at the top of the straight that the favourite would need wings to overhaul the front-runner. Impala skipped clear to record an easy win over another Lagad trainee Red Carnation finishing second. Ms Boss was faraway third barely managing to save place money from Stick To The Plan. With Lagad having brought down so many horses into the lower category, it is hard to predict which one of them would spring a surprise. Pune racing is eminently avoidable under the circumstances as the quality of racing his dropped like never.
Shazaan Shah trained Khartoum dropped a big bombshell in the 1600 metres Dinkoo N Chenoy Trophy, a race for horses rated 20 to 46. Arrowfield was backed to record an encore ahead of Fleur De Lys who was a noteworthy second behind Bushtops. There was also support for Tasawwur, but the lesser fancied runner was withdrawn from the fray at the gates. Khartoum led the field with Arrowfield in a handy second position ahead of Western Front and the rest. Khartoum stayed put in front even as Trevor Patel was unable to get the desired response from favourite Arrowfield who struggled to change gears. Khartoum kicked clear in the final furlong and held off the late flourish of Bakhtawar who came from a long way back to narrowly miss the berth. It was difficult to make out the form of the race as Khartoum who had finished more than 10 lengths behind Bushtops winning the race while Fleur De Lys who was 1.5 lengths adrift of Bushtops not even figuring on board.
Mansoor Shah trained Cupido came out of the maidens rank in his 15th run by trouncing the opposition in the 1600 metres Gaea Plate, a race for horses rated 4 to 30. Five-year-old Cupido had the benefit of a forward run this season and was backed to the exclusion of the rest. Sandesh kept Cupido a handy second behind Saddle The Wind till turning for home before releasing the breaks on the favourite. The progeny of Rebuttal spurted clear in a trice and went beyond the reach of the rest to win by a widening margin of nine lengths. Saddle The Wind managed to keep the second position by a whisker over stablemate Regal Shot.
Lesser fancied Guarnerius from the stables of trainer Adhiraj Jodha held off the strong challenge of Knight Superior to win the 1000 metres Unforgettable You Plate, a race for maiden three-year-olds. Knight Superior led from the start with Guarnerius in the chase. The battle lasted all the way in the straight with Guarnerius putting his head in front at the all-important end. Vishal Gaikwad trained Tudor Hall came in for a lot of support to make a winning debut, but the favourite lacked initial speed and had too much of leeway to cover in the straight. Tudor Hall ran a suggestive third and her turn could come soon.
The speedy Bonafide from the stables of trainer Deepesh Narredu went at a scorching pace in front and held off the late flourish of favourite Silver Flames to win the 1000 metres Grey Area Plate (Div I), a race for horses rated 20 to 46. Bonafide had a useful lead of over five lengths going into the final furlong and though the favourite was full of running at the finish, he fell short in the end. The winner was guided by five-kg claimer Gagandeep Mann. Despite being sluggish at the start, Agrami ran on to save place money.
Star Comrade (Bhawani Singh up) winner of the Floods Of Fortune Plate
Square Moon (Dashrath Singh up) winner of the Highland Rule Trophy
Impala (Dashrath Singh up) winner of the Grey Area Plate (Div-II)
Khartoum (Kishore Kadam up) winner of the Dinkoo N Chenoy Trophy
Cupido (A Sandesh up) winner of the Gaea Plate
Guarnerius (Neeraj Rawal up) winner of the Unforgettable You Plate
Bonafide (Gagandeep Mann up) winner of the Grey Area Plate (Div-I)