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Alicia lands Nilgiris Derby for trainer Pesi Shroff
Review: By: Sharan Kumar
September 19 , 2021

Trainer Pesi Shroff saddled his first winner of the Gr 1 Nilgiris Derby, the highlight of the short season which is a continuation of the truncated Ooty season at Chennai on Sunday. For the first time in the history of this Derby, the race generated tremendous interest besides having an all-India character.

The Madras Race Club Managing Committee and its Chairman M A M R Muthaiah must be complemented for making sincere efforts to ensure that the racehorse owners were not deprived of their winning opportunities by making every effort to piece together a mini-season, getting all the required permissions in difficult times when most clubs were struggling even to get their racing season going.

The Derby attracted a field of nine runners and among them, there were a few runners who were running for the first time on this track. As it turned out, the horses which had given eye-catching efforts in their last effort two weeks ago on the same track were found wanting and performed disappointingly. The first four places in the race were taken by fresh horses while Cool Rider who garnered solid support ruined his chances at the gate itself with a lethargic beginning which effectively sealed his fate. The other horse to disappoint was Imperial Blue who too perhaps did not handle the vigor of running twice in a fortnight. Trainer Irfan Ghatala believed that the last run perhaps had drained out his horse looking at the result as relatively fresh horses ruled the roost.


The premier event surely had an open look about it though Cool Rider by virtue of running on late in what was perceived as a poor effort by jockey Sandesh was expected to make amends. However, there was an element of unreliability about the favourite as he had lost too tamely for comfort after working into a striking position close to home on the last occasion. Pesi Shroff trained Alicia had run second in both her efforts with a late rally. The pace of the race as well as her experience proved to be critical. Veteran jockey Pradeep Chouhan rode a peach of a race to guide the horse to a facile win. The ones which went quick in front were caught up by the finishing burst of Alicia who won with a measure of comfort in the end.

There was discreet support for Alicia to have a bold show given the fact that the daughter of Western Aristocrat had run behind stablemate Miracle in the Deccan Fillies Championship. Earlier in the season on the same Malakpet track, she had found Knotty Dancer too speedy over seven furlongs. Things fell in place for Alicia as the relative classic winning experience of her trainer Pesi Shroff and the big race temperament of her jockey Pradeep Chouhan helped the filly to run away with the glory.

Donald Netto trained Knotty Dancer who had flopped in the Deccan Colts Championship having gone too fast from the word 'go’ was ridden sensibly by jockey Mukesh Kumar who dictated the pace tactically. The fact that he was unopposed in the front also helped Knotty Dancer to go at the pace that would suit his style. Bangalore challenger All Attractive who had made a winning debut on the only race day that was possible in the Bangalore summer season had worked brilliantly and was a final entry in this race was a handy second followed by first-timer Siege Perilous, Alicia, Imperial Blue, Akido, Mitsuro, Chashni and Cool Rider who was tailed off last.

Knotty Dancer battled on resolutely in the home stretch but it was clear that Alicia was going to swamp them all when she moved with telling strides in the centre of the track, picking speed instantly and by the final furlong, had collared the front-runner Knotty Dancer who could not find an extra gear. All Attractive fought hard but it was clear that the lack of experience was going to affect his chances though the progeny of Excellent Art did well to snatch the runner-up berth from the long-time leader. Despite running for the first time in his career, Siege Perilous caught the eye, finishing in the heap for the minor placings. The second, third and fourth-placed horses finished in close order. Something seemed to be bothering Akido, the winner of the 2000 Guineas and his poor performance did not come as a surprise under the circumstances. Cool Rider was a spent force in the stretch.

The 1600 metres Nilgiris Gold Cup, a terms race for four-year-olds and over, the other highlight of the day went on expected lines. Satish Narredu trained Born Queen who was an eye-catching second to Multifaceted, built on that run to record a comprehensive win over My Opinion and Rambunctious. Trafalgar looked far from ready but this run should help him regain at least a semblance of his old form. Incidentally, Born Queen had won the South India Derby earlier this year.

The Madras Race Club is making all the right moves and the Indian Turf Invitation Cup weekend races that will be held in the first week of March will be a big draw. In the meanwhile, in the meeting of the Turf Authorities of India, it was decided to have the Invitation Cup weened races which could not be held earlier in March, on December 19 at Pune or Mumbai if circumstances are favorable. RWITC Chairman Zavaray Poonawalla is firmly committed to conducting the event even going to the extent of making a huge financial commitment from his own resources.

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