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Adjudicate wins Invitation Cup in sensational timing

  March 3 , 2019

James McKeown trained Adjudicate won the Gr 1 Indian Turf Invitation Cup, the biggest race of the Indian racing calendar, beating one of the all-time greats of Indian racing Desert God by half a length in what is the all India record for the mile and half trip. Adjudicate clocked a splendid timing of two minutes 27.2 seconds not only erasing the course record but clocking the best timing achieved anywhere in the country. Star Superior who had won the Indian Derby in tremendous fashion, was this time sorted out by the progeny of Multidimensional and the most experienced veteran in the field Desert God. Star Superior barely managed to retain the third spot from The Invader.

James McKeown who shot into prominence this season after the victory of Adjudicate in the Kolkata Derby could not have asked for a better platform to advertise his potential as a trainer of outstanding merit. Having been under the tutelage of champion trainer S Padmanabhan, James turned out Adjudicate in top condition for this race to beat the horse of the famed trainer Desert God in one of the best finishes seen in this event. Veteran jockey Y S Srinath who was recording the third straight win on the Malakpet track in this prestigious race gave a perfect ride to the champion filly. Incidentally, Srinath was successful in this race on horses all named with the alphabet A namely Autonomy, Alaindair and Adjudicate which were all the produce of Usha Stud Farm stallions.

James McKeown who was born in England but spent most of his years in India has a rich racing background. After being denied a license at Bangalore due to petty local politics of the Bangalore Turf Club, James had to relocate to Kolkata where the Royal Calcutta Turf Club was more than pleased to give him the license. James had vindicated the trust of his Calcutta bosses with his consistent results and the victory of Adjudicate in prime events should boost the career of this affable trainer whose father Terry McKeown also rode in India including some classic winners.

A Kolkata based horse was winning this event after 1996. The last success for a Kolkata based horse had come in the year 1996. A horse named Supreme Choice had won this event at Chennai in the hands of Nick Connorton and the long shot was trained by Phillips Corner who is the brother of famous ex-jockey Robin Corner who is also now a veteran administrator. Philips Corner is happily settled at Goa running a luxury resort after also training a big race winner at Malaysia on an Indian horse namely Simply Noble.

Star Superior`s victory in the Indian Derby was so spectacular that despite facing a worthy adversary in Desert God, he went to the post as a strong favorite. Trainer Rajesh Narredu though was cautiously optimistic and had said that everyone had to beat Desert God. ``It is not that everyone has to beat my horse. Those who hope to win have to beat Desert God,`` he had said a few races before the Invitation Cup.

Adjudicate who had lost to Star Superior by five lengths reversed the big verdict. The filly who had a bout of fever after the Derby at Kolkata had performed below expectations albeit running second in the Indian Derby. The filly showed out in much better shape after her sojourn at Bangalore and her looks translated into performance. Star Superior though looked outstanding in the paddock was perhaps a little over the top and he raced keen and his ammunition had dried up when the race came to the boil and looked a beaten rose the moment Desert God got into the act inside the final two furlongs.

The race was run at a frenetic pace with leads alternating between Kangra, Psychic Force and finally Salazaar. Desert God was in about the fifth or sixth position alongside Star Superior while Adjudicate was within striking range, beautifully settled. Salazaar brought the field into view with Desert God getting busy along with Star Superior. When Desert God spurted ahead, it looked as though the veteran would pull through but Adjudicate loomed large on the wide outside and essayed a strong challenge. Under the driving finish of jockey Srinath, Adjudicate surged ahead of Desert God who fought on valiantly but surrendered by half a length to the younger rival who enjoyed the pull in weights as per the terms of the race. Star Superior was a couple of lengths behind in the third position barely managing to beat The Invader to save place money. Last year`s Invitation Cup winner Kangra ran a miserable last.

It was clear that the terms of the race are loaded heavily in favor of the four-year-olds. The four-kg difference was brought down by two kgs from last year but still, the race continues to be the preserve of the four-year-olds. There is a need to run this race at level weights as this is a championship to decide the champion from among different ages. Like in the international Group I races held after March 1, this race should also be made into a race where the four-year-olds and older horses carry the same weight.

But then it is a difficult ask because obdurate people like Cyrus Madan are at the helm. ``We cannot make handicap for an older horse to win this race.`` But if one extends his logic, we should also not make this race as a handicap for only four-year-olds to win.

Sulaiman Attaollahi trained Serjeant At Arms earned the unique distinction of becoming the first horse to win the Gt 1 Major P K Mehra Super Mile twice. Serjeant At Arms who had performed poorly at Mumbai due to long absence from the track and the chunks of weight he was conceding to his adversaries made mincemeat of the opposition in the Super Mile by striking the form that had made the progeny of Ikhtyar an unbeatable champion over a mile race. Isn`t She Lovely set a fast followed by Rikki Tikki Tavi, Cambridge, and Serjeant At Arms who was ridden up with the field by jockey Akshay Kumar. Isn`t She Lovely held the lead as long as Serjeant At Arms was held in check. The moment the breaks were released, Serjeant At Arms produced a scintillating burst of speed which enabled him to draw clear to win by a widening margin of four lengths over Rikki Tikki Tavi who held off Cambridge to get the runner-up berth. New England was fourth while Isn`t She Lovely weakened to finish fifth.

David Allan`s power-packed riding enabled Padmanabhan trained Mauritania to win the Gr 2 Suresh Mahindra Multi-Million, a terms race for four-year-olds and over. Costa Brava led the field well into the straight before being displaced by Mauritania who produced a strong performance despite running a day after finishing second behind Ruffina in the Sprinters Cup. Mauritania engaged the front-running Costa Brava in a bitter battle for supremacy and had things under control throughout the final furlong. Cavallo Veloce could have finished much close but jockey Akshay Kumar got pocketed on the inside at a crucial stage of the race which possibly cost the Chennai challenger the runner-up berth.


Divine Glory (A Sandesh up) winner of the Vijay Textiles Juvenile Million

Escobar (Kiran Naidu up) winner of the Japan Trophy

Meka`s (B R Kumar up) winner of the Asian Racing Federation Million

Mauritania (David Allan up) winner of the Suresh Mahindra Multi Million Trophy (Gr.2)

Serjeant At Arms (Akshay Kumar up) winner of the Maj.P.K.Mehra Memorial Super Mile Cup (Gr.1)

Wave Rider (A Sandesh up) winner of the Villoo C Poonawalla Million

Adjudicate (Y S Srinath up) winner of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup (Gr.1)

Striking Grey (Darshan R N up) winner of the Deccan Bookmakers Welfare Association Million

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